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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPICS

Heinrichs Says U.S. Has Talent to Stay With Norway in the Air

September 13, 2000|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MELBOURNE, Australia — Per Matthias Hogmo, coach of the Norwegian women's Olympic soccer team, knows the U.S. only too well. The countries have played each other five times in 2000 and Norway holds a 3-1-1 advantage.

It will come as no surprise to Hogmo, therefore, to learn that the Americans will play out of a 4-4-2 formation, with four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards, when the teams meet Thursday night at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The probable U.S. starting lineup consists of Siri Mullinix in goal; Christie Pearce at right back; Joy Fawcett and Kate Sobrero as center backs; Brandi Chastain at left back; Lorrie Fair and Julie Foudy as the defensive and offensive midfielders, respectively; Shannon MacMillan wide right and Kristine Lilly wide left in midfield, and Tiffeny Milbrett and Mia Hamm as the two strikers.

The first player off the bench, in the event goals are needed, will be Cindy Parlow, who normally would start if U.S. Coach April Heinrichs played a 4-3-3 formation. Fair or MacMillan then would be on the bench.

With Michelle Akers and Tisha Venturini no longer on the team and with Parlow on the sideline eager for action, the U.S. aerial game is much weaker, something that the Norwegians could exploit.

But Heinrichs believes others will step up.

"On any set plays, we still have Julie Foudy, who has scored some of the best goals with her head," Heinrichs said after the Americans held a 90-minute training session Tuesday evening at the stadium of the Port Melbourne Sharks.

"Brandi Chastain is marvelous in the air, and Cindy Parlow is marvelous in the air, and she'll be out there. So I'm not concerned. The sport of soccer's not about height; it's about awareness and understanding and reading flighted balls."

If the U.S. is trying to protect a lead, the first substitute could be Michelle French, who took Akers' roster spot when the veteran retired, or Danielle Slaton, a 20-year-old viewed by many, including Heinrichs, as a future national team captain.

Also on call if needed will be goalkeeper Briana Scurry, midfielders Sara Whalen and Nikki Serlenga, and veteran defender and co-captain Carla Overbeck.

The best that could happen for the U.S. Thursday night is if it were to defeat Norway in Melbourne and if Nigeria were to somehow upset China in the other group match in Canberra. The latter is not expected to happen, although China has been upset in Australia already this year--by Canada in the Pacific Cup in June.

Next up for the U.S.: China on Sunday in a game that, depending on the Norway result, could determine if the world champions and defending gold medalists advance or go home.

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