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Sobrero is recovered, will start in Thursday quarterfinal against Germany.

By Gary Davidson

FAIRFAX, Va. (Tuesday, June 29, 1999) -- Defender Kate Sobrero, who sat out Sunday's 3-0 victory against North Korea as a precaution, will be back in the starting lineup Thursday when the United States faces Germany in a Women's World Cup quarterfinal at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Landover, Md.

She sprained her right ankle in a June 23 practice, but managed to play the first 45 minutes against Nigeria the next night, by which time the Americans led 6-1.

Coach Tony DiCicco said she could have played Sunday, but there was no reason since the Americans were certain to advance to the quarterfinals regardless of the result against North Korea.

"I'm fine enough to play," Sobrero said. "I'm better than I was when I played against Nigeria ... It helped a lot, getting a game off because it was very sore after the Nigeria game. It took a couple days to get back after that one, so it's good I didn't play against North Korea. But I'm good for Thursday."

Though the U.S. team used a lot of ice in Tuesday's practice at hot, muggy George Mason University -- most noticeably on Sobrero's ankle, striker Mia Hamm's right quadriceps and midfielder Michelle Akers' right shoulder -- DiCicco said the team is healthy and everybody is ready to go. He remained noncommital about any changes in his starting lineup despite reserve forward\midfielder Shannon MacMillan's bid for a spot in the first 11 with an impressive one-goal, two-assist performance against North Korea.

He said he was considering some formation changes for the Germans. "We're not sure," he said. "The Germans are so good in the midfield, and they have two dangerous frontrunners. Our whole system has been 3-4-3. We've been playing a lot of 4-3-3, but 3-5-2 may be the best against them. So did I avoid that question well enough?"

DiCicco said he removed Hamm at halftime of the North Korea match despite a 0-0 score because it was part of a pre-game plan to give her some rest. She and defender Carla Overbeck skipped media questions after training to sign autographs for 30 minutes for hundreds of young fans, mostly girls, who were allowed to watch practice.

Tisha Venturini's double flip after her second goal against North Korea was a product of her youth days as a gymnast.

"It's just called a round-off back-flip," said Venturini, a star in the mid-1990s who has seen little action lately. "I thought about it, thinking that I haven't been playing as much. If I get in the game and manage to score, I have to do something spectacular.

"I couldn't do it the first time because I was too close to people. I would have knocked some one down or injured them. I didn't want to do that. "That would have been terrible to knock (Shannon) MacMillan (who fed both Venturini goals) down and out of play."

Gary Davidson is managing editor of SoccerTimes and can be e-mailed at info@soccertimes.com.

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