Linda Hamilton Is Soccer `Terminator'

PONTIAC, Mich. - Hollywood's Linda Hamilton was the female hero in the movie, The Terminator, but the Linda Hamilton of the U.S. national soccer team plays like Arnold Swartzenegger.

"She's a very intimidating player to play against," said Anson Dorrance, the American coach. "She plays with reckless abandon."

In 1991, Hamilton, a 24-year-old defender from Atlanta, rebounded from major reconstructive knee surgery in just eight months to spur the U.S. national team in China to the world championship. In a sport where a 2-0 score is considered an offensive explosion, the U.S. team topped its opponents, 23-2, in five tournament games.

Physical, frenetic play has become the trademark of the women's national team. The style may surprise some fans who come to the team's exhibition tomorrow against Team Canada at the Pontiac Silverdome.

"We scare a lot of teams because we're offensive-minded," said Hamilton, who coaches in and organizes youth leagues in suburban Farmington Hills in the off-season. "If people watch us, they'll be impressed by the level of play."

"We get the team incredibly fit, then run at (the opposition) for 90 minutes," Dorrance said. "We're not satisfied with a 1-0 result."

Soccer for men and women is overshadowed in the United States by more traditional professional sports, and Hamilton said the U.S. women's team is also overshadowed by the men's team.

With the U.S. men's team hosting the 1994 World Cup, the premier tournament in soccer, the women's team, although more successful, has received less attention.

Tomorrow's exhibition has been lost in the glare of the England-Germany men's match Saturday.

"What we accomplished has never been done in American history," Hamilton said. "In China, we were hailed as superstars - 60,000 people came to watch us. When we arrived in New York, less than five people were there to greet us at the airport."

Organizers expected 60,000 fans for England-Germany; for the women's game, 6,000 are expected.

"The fact that the American public doesn't recognize us bothers us, but we're there for only one thing, to compete," Hamilton said. "We're not out there to make money."

She said the women's national team is more successful in international play than the men's team because women's intercollegiate soccer is comparable to women's professional leagues in other countries. Men's intercollegiate soccer is generally less competitive than professional leagues in Europe.

"Soccer isn't taken seriously as a sport here because the men's national team isn't competitive," Hamilton said. "And unfortunately, until the men prove otherwise, that will continue."

But she said the United States is building an international dynasty in women's soccer as youth leagues expand across the country.