- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

On short notice, Canada replaced Nigeria as Saturday’s opponent for the U.S. women’s national team in an exhibition game to be played before the Washington Freedom face the Atlanta Beat. It will be RFK Stadium’s first women’s soccer doubleheader.The Nigerians’ inability to secure travel visas forced the switch.”We gave Nigeria every opportunity to process their paperwork with the U.S. consulate in Lagos,” U.S. Soccer secretary general Dan Flynn said. “They’ve had more than six weeks to make the proper travel arrangements since we first announced the match in early March, but their delay in the procedure has precluded them from traveling in a timely way for such an important match in our women’s World Cup preparation.”When the African champions failed to show up in Washington on Tuesday, questions were raised. Canada was scheduled to play the Nigerians in two exhibitions last week in the U.S., but was forced to cancel when the Nigerians, who have qualified for the World Cup, failed to show.This switch works well for the Americans’ World Cup preparation since the Canadians offer better competition. The U.S. battled Canada to a 1-1 draw in the opening game of last month’s Algarve Cup in Portugal — a tournament the U.S. eventually won. In the last seven meetings, the U.S. is 3-2-2 against the formidable Canadians.”Every time we play Canada we know we are going to be challenged to the extreme,” U.S. women’s national team coach April Heinrichs said. “The most important thing for us, in looking at our women’s World Cup preparation, is to play games, and there is no question that any game against a World Cup opponent like Canada will be great preparation for our players. We don’t feel like we played our best against them in the tie in Portugal, so this will be a great chance to improve on that game.”

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