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Familiar shores for ex-Breakers

Mellgren, LeBlanc hope to show way

FOXBOROUGH -- Dagny Mellgren thought longingly of her old apartment in the Fenway Thursday when a bus took her and the rest of the Norway team from Logan Airport to the hotel in Needham where they would be staying for the next few days. Karina LeBlanc has fond memories of Boston, too, and had no hesitation when her Canadian teammates asked her where to dine: "The Cheesecake Factory," she said.

Mellgren and LeBlanc were Boston Breakers for the past three years -- LeBlanc in goal and Mellgren at forward -- but have shed their royal blue jerseys for national team colors for the Women's World Cup.

Mellgren's team will play South Korea at 12:45 in the first game of a doubleheader at Gillette Stadium this afternoon; LeBlanc's Canadian team will face Japan at 3:30.

Mellgren has experienced international soccer glory. She kicked in the golden goal in the 101st minute of the championship game against the United States at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 to give Norway the gold medal.

A year later she was playing at Nickerson Field alongside US national teamers Kristine Lilly and Kate Sobrero. Although the language was different and she had trouble at times adjusting to the culture and laws (her car was once towed), Mellgren developed a fondness for the Breakers and the city.

"It's nice to come back here, I kind of feel like it's my second home," she said. "When we landed at Logan, it was all so familiar, and I was showing people where I lived."

Mellgren and Breakers teammate Maren Meinert became known as "M&M" and as one of the most intimidating offensive combinations in the league. Mellgren finished last season with a league-leading 14 goals, while German international Meinert had nine goals and 10 assists.

Mellgren's task now is to help Norway win the World Cup, which it did in 1995.

Norway defeated France, 2-0, in its opening Group B game last weekend, but dropped its next game to Brazil, 4-1, Wednesday.

"Brazil had a good game against us, but I think every team is getting better," Mellgren said. "It's more competitive, and it's a good thing for women's soccer."

Canada is not thinking about regaining glory, but about making it past the first round in World Cup play. The Canadians lost to Germany, 4-1, in its Group C opener but rebounded to defeat Argentina, 3-0, Wednesday.

LeBlanc, a finalist for Goalkeeper of the Year in the WUSA this past season, played against Germany but Taryn Swiatek was in goal against Argentina. Coach Even Pellerud said he hasn't decided whether LeBlanc, Swiatek, or Erin McLeod will get the nod against Japan.

"It depends on the other team, because everyone has different strengths," LeBlanc said. "It's hard to look at a 4-1 game and say, `Oh, I did extremely well.' "

Goalkeeper coach Shel Brodsgaard said Swiatek played Wednesday because the team expected a less physical game.

"Karina has a more athletic presence, and she's more powerful," he said. "She's fantastic reacting to anything 20 meters from the goal, the short range. But in that game we weren't expecting a lot of traffic in front of the goal."

LeBlanc, like Mellgren, is familiar with Gillette Stadium. She played there twice with the Breakers. Like Mellgren, LeBlanc doesn't mind being the voice of authority on her team on all things Boston, even though she was born in Atlanta, lived in Dominica and British Columbia, and graduated from the University of Nebraska. LeBlanc still has an apartment in Newton, where she lives with her fiance.

"Everyone on the team is like, `Where's this and where's that?' " she said. "So I told them about The Cheesecake Factory (in Chestnut Hill), then they can go to the mall afterward.

"It's fun to be back home."

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