Taking on the World

The U.S. Team Begins Another Hard Road To Glory

Hoping to get between anyone and the ball is Fair, who, at 20, carries the least number of years and most number of tatoos on the squad (OK, OK . . . she just has two). This is also Fair's first World Cup. Though she was an alternate on the '96 Olympic squad, the UNC communications major— she is the only woman on the squad who still has college eligibility left— says she's had only the slightest taste of what to expect from a major tourney in front of home crowds.

"It was a little harder in '96," she explained. "I was 17 and still had to send those permission slips home for my mom to sign."

Hardly long in the tooth, Fair has already racked up 48 caps and got a few starts on the springtime tour. She's also versatile, having played forward for her club team and a good deal at midfield in college which, the National Team defender admits, she really likes.

"I don't know if I have so much of a striker mentality," she laughs. "I just like to run around." And she hopes that in 2001, after completing college next year and competing in the 2000 Olympics, there will be a professional women's league to run around in. "The timing could be perfect for me."

And for women's soccer in the United States, if the team lives up to everyone's lofty expectations. So it's time to hit the road again, after what Fotopoulos describes as "some tough losses" on the last trip, namely at the hands— and feet— of China, who were runners-up to the U.S. in the Atlanta Olympics. The two teams may very well meet again in this final. But first the U.S. needs to shift into high gear for the physically challenging Denmark and their first-round mystery matchups against Nigeria and Korea, about whom little is known.

"Each game is difficult," Fotopoulos says. "It's going to be a hard road."

And a long one. But if the Amerks get going and make it back to Pasadena, it'll be worth the trip.

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