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 Tuesday, November 19, 2002 20:03 EST

Match set for Jan. 12 in California

[Associated Press]

SAN DIEGO -- The U.S. women's national soccer team will open its 2003 schedule against Japan on Jan. 12 in preparations for the World Cup in China.

The women will play their first full international game in Torero Stadium. The team's training base is located near San Diego in Chula Vista.

The Americans then will travel to China for a late-January tournament. The Women's World Cup is in the fall of 2003.

Japan is led by captain Homare Sawa, a midfielder for the WUSA's Atlanta Beat. Sawa scored in the last meeting between the United States and Japan, a 1-1 tie in Phoenix in December 2000. It was the first tie for Japan against the U.S. squad after the Americans won 13 straight.

``I'm excited to play Japan because they play a really nice style of soccer,'' U.S. coach April Heinrichs said. ``They push the ball around, play with great possession and have a world-class personality in Homare Sawa.

``The great thing about Japan is that they don't bunker; they will come out and play. They are gearing up for their Women's World Cup qualifying and we are counting on them bringing their best players, who are all trying to make that qualifying team.''

Heinrichs' team has not played since winning the Women's Gold Cup earlier this month to qualify for the World Cup.


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