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U.S. turns up heat for Sweden

Most times, the U.S. women's soccer team would expect Sweden to sit back in a defensive shell.

Especially given the predictable sauna-like heat and humidity at the Florida Citrus Bowl, even during an early evening game like tonight's Olympic matchup.

But these aren't normal times for Sweden, a team running out of time.

"They have their back against the wall now," U.S. coach Tony DiCicco said of the Swedes, who lost their opener to China, 2-0, on Sunday and must win or face long odds of advancing to the semifinals. "We know they have to come out and play at their peak. They'll be formidable."

The U.S. team, on the strength of a dominating 3-0 win against Denmark here on Sunday, leads Pool E and can all but clinch a spot in the next round with a win. After three preliminary-round games, the top two teams from Pools E and F meet Sunday in Athens, Ga. The medal games follow Aug. 1.

U.S. star forward Michelle Akers, who played professionally in Sweden for three seasons, said she recalled a game there when the Swedes needed water breaks in the middle of the first half "because they thought it was so hot."

The temperatures climbed into the 70s. Ooh.

"I think they're going to be careful with their energy expenditure," Akers said. "I don't think they'll go gangbusters out to score. I think they'll bunker a little bit, but use their long serves and try to counter."

Of course, that's what USA expected from Denmark. Instead, Denmark, trying to cope with the relentless temperature (102 degrees) and the ceaseless U.S. threat, sat back and seemed content to let USA control the ball.

Denmark didn't muster a single shot. USA had 24.

"We knew coming into the Olympics with the heat index well into 100s, we wouldn't be able to play our normal 100 percent high-pressuring style offense and defense," U.S. midfielder Julie Foudy said. "One of the adjustments Tony and the coaching staff made was once we could come up with a lead, holding possession. In the Denmark game, we were very successful with that."

"(This game) will be a battle out there," Foudy said. "I mean, this is the Olympics. Everything is on the line. That's what you go in expecting."

U.S. women vs. Sweden

WHEN/WHERE: 6 p.m., today; Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando.

TICKETS: $20-$40, available at Ticketmaster outlets, also at Gate C beginning at 10 a.m.

KEY PLAYERS: U.S. _ Mia Hamm, F; Michelle Akers, F; Tisha Venturini, M; Tiffeny Milbrett, F; Carla Overbeck, D. Sweden _ Pia Sundhage, M; Lena Videkull, F; Ulrika Kalte, M; Malin Anderson, M; Annelie Nilsson, GK.

U.S.-SWEDEN HISTORY: USA is 4-1-1 against Sweden, including a pair of 3-0 wins in February.

PREDICTION: U.S. 4-0.

_ BRIAN LANDMAN

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