- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2006

CHEONAN, South Korea — The promotional material for the Peace Queen Cup listed Heather Mitts as the “Anna Kournikova of the soccer world.”

Maria Sharapova might have been more appropriate.

While the photogenic Mitts does have the stunning looks, she actually has been successful at her game. Her Olympic gold medal proves it.

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“It’s flattering to be recognized as a female for something other than your sport, but obviously [Kournikova] wasn’t very successful,” Mitts said. “From that aspect I’m a little different.”

The 28-year-old defender has played in 59 games for the U.S. national team — including all 18 of her team’s matches this season. She helped the United States to a 2-0 win over Australia on Tuesday in Cheonan.

“Even though she is small her best quality is that she’s really tough and aggressive and a really hard defender,” U.S. coach Greg Ryan said of the 5-foot-4 defender. “She is great at shutting down that player that creates for the other team.”

Said Mitts: “I’m not tall and I’m not a big player, so I have to play outside myself. In training I’m playing against big players such as Abby Wambach, so I use that experience on the field. I have to play tough and use my speed to my advantage.”

Mitts broke her leg in 2003 while playing for the Philadelphia Charge in the now defunct Women’s United Soccer Association. The injury cost her a spot on that year’s World Cup team.

But Mitts, who before breaking her leg had made the WUSA All-Star team, made a quick recovery to earn a spot on the Olympic team at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The former Florida Gators player likely will get another chance to play in a World Cup if the U.S. team wins its qualifier, probably against Mexico on Nov. 22.

Mitts is not only a talented defender but also is a budding TV sports personality. She has done studio work for ESPN and ABC and has reported from the sidelines for ESPN on both MLS and college football games.

Peace Queen Cup roundup — With four points, the U.S. team is tied with Denmark in Group B. But the United States leads the group because it has scored one more goal than the Danes. The U.S. team plays the Netherlands today at World Cup Stadium in Suwon, looking to win the group and advance to Saturday’s final against Canada at World Cup Stadium in Seoul. Denmark’s final game in the group is against Australia.

In yesterday games in Changwon, Canada booked a place in the final with a resounding 4-2 win over Brazil, while Italy won its first game over the winless South Koreans 2-1.

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