U.S. women's team hopes to strike back against Norway in " D.C.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

COLLEGE PARK -- The sting of the memory has stayed with Mia Hamm.

She recalls the disappointment she felt walking off the field after the U.S. women's soccer team's 1-0 loss to Norway in the World Cup semifinals in Sweden two months ago.

"It was a very difficult loss," Hamm said. "Our goal was to win the world championship, and we fell short on that. The hardest thing was coming off the field and seeing your friends and family, because those are people that you felt you let down. They had done so much for you, and they sacrificed so much to get over there."

But now Hamm and her teammates have a chance to exact a little revenge against their rivals, who went on to beat Germany for the world title. The United States and Norway will meet at RFK Stadium tomorrow in the championship game of the U.S. Women's Cup.

"It's really important," said Joppatowne's Thori Staples. "Of course, [the revenge factor] is a given."

The U.S. team is coming off 9-0 and 4-2 wins over Chinese Taipei and Australia, respectively. Norway beat Australia, 2-0, and Chinese Taipei, 12-1.

U.S. coach Tony DiCicco said the loss to Norway and third-place finish in the World Cup might have been a good lesson for his team, which is preparing for next year's Summer Olympics.

"It was really a painful loss," DiCicco said. "Our goal was to repeat as world champions. But sometimes pain is good, and that might serve as incentive to accomplish a gold medal in the Olympics. Losing is a very difficult thing for this team to take."

The U.S. women's team has been overshadowed lately by its male counterpart. But while the U.S. men's success in the Copa America and U.S. Cup has drawn the lion's share of attention, it is the women who have enjoyed the most success in U.S. soccer history.

The women's team was the 1991 FIFA world champion, and it captured the 1994 CONCACAF title that enabled it to qualify for the 1995 World Cup.

"At this point in America, we are still trying to sell the sport," said all-time leading scorer Michelle Akers. "Any success the guys have is our success, also. You have to look up and focus on the good of the game."

Led by Hamm (four goals in the tournament) and Akers (three goals), the women's team consists of many talented players who all play a role in an attacking style.

"We have a lot of different ways to beat an opponent," DiCicco said. "We have a lot of different players who can take the game over. . . .

"We will definitely try to attack [Norway]. You can't sit back against Norway, because they're so good in their direct style of play."

Said Hamm: "Norway is Norway. We have a great deal of respect for them. They are the world champions and we know that and understand that. Every time we play Norway, it's a tough game for both sides. We're excited."

WOMEN'S CUP '95

What: U.S. national women's soccer team vs. Norway

Where: RFK Stadium

When: Tomorrow, 2 p.m.

TV: ESPN2 live

Tickets: Seats are $12, $16 and $20 and are available at RFK tomorrow, or through TicketMaster, (410) 481-SEAT.

Outlook: Both teams are 2-0 in the tournament, and this game will decide the title. It's a rematch of a World Cup semifinal, in which Norway beat the defending champion U.S. team, 1-0, and went on to beat Germany in the final.

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