The U.S. women's national soccer team will play a squad of World All-Stars today at MCI Center in an indoor exhibition game as part of its victory tour to celebrate the team's World Cup championship last summer.
"We're trying to keep the excitement of the game alive and celebrate the World Cup and reach some audiences that we didn't necessarily reach for the World Cup," midfielder Kristine Lilly said. "It's just to thank the fans, enjoy the game and celebrate the game of soccer."
The U.S. team (2-4) has lost four straight games to an all-star team composed of some of the world's top players, including Roseli of Brazil, Patience Avre of Nigeria, and Hege Riise and Ann Kristin Aarones of Norway.
"Four losses in a row are hard to swallow," U.S. goalie Briana Scurry said. "We're struggling a little bit right now. But, we're hoping to get the hang of it."
The indoor game is much different from the outdoor game the U.S. women are used to playing. The indoor game has five field players and a goalie on each team, unlike the 11 players per team for outdoor soccer. The indoor game is played in four quarters on an artificial surface with hockey-style boards and glass around the field. It is fast-paced and high-scoring.
The U.S. players rely on each other for game strategy because they have been without a coach since Tony DiCicco resigned Nov. 2. The world team is coached by Jim Gabarra, a former pro player and coach.
"[Indoor soccer] is incredibly different," Scurry said. "You can't play outdoor soccer inside and expect to win. You have to change your game. Indoors, you have to use the boards. . . . You have to realize when the ball goes sailing over the goal, it is not necessarily out of bounds. There is a piece of glass up there that brings it back in."
The 12-city victory tour, which is sponsored by Toys "R" Us, started Oct. 22 in Pittsburgh and will end Dec. 15 in Portland, Ore. Last Sunday at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., the players drew their largest crowd, 14,525, in a game that the world team won, 12-7.
The tour was arranged by the American players with SFX Sports Group, a sports promotion firm, to try to increase their visibility and income after their World Cup victory in July and to create support for a women's professional soccer league. Each U.S. team member reportedly will earn a minimum of $50,000.