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U.S., DiCicco expect World Cup win

NEW YORK -- Tony DiCicco knows what he wants, and he knows how he wants to get it.

DiCicco is in the difficult position of needing a championship to avoid the perception of failure.The American team in the Women's World Cup, which begins with a U.S.-Denmark matchup Saturday at Giants Stadium, is favored to add this world title to the one it took home from China in 1991. And to the gold medal it won at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

That, of course, is DiCicco's goal. So is capturing that crown in a manner he believes befits his country and culture.

The 50-year-old coach wants his players to be aggressive for 90 minutes, then to attack even more if extra time is needed.

"You can play a negative style, and we may see some of that in the World Cup," said DiCicco, who was the goalkeepers' coach with the '91 team and became head coach in 1994. "That's a game played not to lose instead of to win. For sure, this team plays to win. To change that would be going against their natural sporting tendencies.

"Our fans like an aggressive team that attacks. We have athletes that play with a lot of heart and put everything out on the field. That's the way of our society in general, and sports mirror society. . . .

"In the United States, we are aggressors, by and large, an aggressive country. That's why I try to put that type of team out there. We tried to hold them back and it doesn't work. Our aggressiveness is one of our most important components of American sports, and this team epitomizes that."

The U.S. soccer system has produced such players as Mia Hamm, the international career goal-scoring leader, Tiffeny Milbrett, Michelle Akers, Shannon MacMillan and Kristine Lilly. All are creative offensively, allowing DiCicco to implement the attacking style.

But he isn't a one-dimensional coach by any means. As a former goalkeeper who played one game for the national team in 1973, he readily understands the importance of a strong defense.

In fact, when the United States lost 1-0 to Norway in the '95 World Cup semifinals, he revamped the defense into more of a zone system that better fits the personnel.

"I hope we win six games 1-0 in the World Cup," he said.

Still, the unwillingness to sit back obviously has worked. Under DiCicco, the Americans are 93-8-7.

"Tony is the perfect coach for us," goalkeeper Briana Scurry said. "He's calm when he needs to be, gets fired up when he needs to, is a great teacher and works very hard."