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March 16, 2009
U.S. Women to face Japan in May

The U.S. Women’s National Team will open its 2009 domestic schedule with a pair of games against Japan. The first match will be on Wednesday, May 20, at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. The U.S. will also host Japan on May 23 in Sandy, Utah, at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The game at Pizza Hut Park kicks off at 7:30 p.m. CT (8:30 pm ET), while the match at Rio Tinto Stadium is at 4:00 pm MT (6:00 pm ET).

This series marks the first meeting between the two countries since the dramatic 2008 Olympic semifinal encounter in Beijing, won 4-2 by the USA. The Americans fell behind 1-0 in that game, but stormed back to score four goals before Japan pulled a one back in stoppage time. The USA also edged Japan 1-0 in a must-win game during group play.

The games will mark the first international match during the inaugural WPS season, which begins March 29. Several Japanese players will also be playing in the league this year.

“These will be interesting games, not only because my coaching staff and I will get the chance to watch many players in the WPS before picking our roster, but also because of the way Japan played during the Olympics,” said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. “The way they move the ball around is to be admired and emulated and, I am sure these will be very entertaining matches for the fans and the players.”

The USA’s last match in Texas was at Pizza Hut Park was a 6-2 defeat of Canada on May 12, 2007. The U.S. Women have played seven matches in Texas, all at different stadiums, and Frisco will become the first repeat venue.

The U.S. team has played just one match in its history in Utah, a 5-0 victory against Ireland before nearly 20,000 fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2003. This will be the first visit for a U.S. National Team to Rio Tinto Stadium, which opened just last October. The U.S. Men will play their first match there on Sept. 5 in a FIFA World Cup qualifier against El Salvador.

The USA and Japan have had a long history dating back to 1986, the second year of the U.S. program’s existence. The USA played Japan in the 1991 and 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cups as well as the quarterfinal stage at the 2004 Olympics. Japan has never defeated the USA, but tied three straight matches played between 2000 and 2004.

Japan is expected to feature its all-time greatest player, midfielder Homare Sawa, who is playing for the Washington Freedom in WPS. Midfielder Aya Miyama (Los Angeles Sol) and forward Eriko Arakawa (FC Gold Pride) also had excellent Olympic tournaments in China.

The U.S. Women are scheduled to play two more domestic matches in July, which will be announced in the near future, and after that will not come together again until after the WPS season.

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