[ SOCCER ]
Kahuku, UH alum Kai joins national team
Natasha Kai has been added to the United States Women's National Team roster for the Algarve Cup soccer tournament to be held March 9-15 in Portugal.
Kai knew she was on the team before returning to Hawaii on Sunday from a two-week training camp at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
"I am excited. I'm still kind of tripping out that I'm going to Portugal with Olympic players," said Kai, the career goals (72) and points (162) leader for the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine.
"To be able to play with them and travel with them is a dream come true."
In January, Kai received a telephone call from U.S. coach Greg Ryan, who invited her to the camp.
"I knew it was a possibility, but I had plans to go with the U-21 team on the England trip (earlier this month)," Kai said.
Switching to the national-team camp, the longest of several camps Kai has participated in at Carson, was not a difficult decision for the Kahuku grad.
Ryan called 26 players, including 19 on the team that won the Four Nations Cup in China in January, to the camp, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation Web site.
Kai is the only one making her U.S. Women's National Team debut. She is the second player from Hawaii, joining Brian Ching, who is on the U.S. Men's National Team, to play for the top U.S. soccer team.
"I thought I did pretty good and Coach Greg said I did good," Kai said. "In our individual meeting, he said I showed what I had, that I had natural talent. He said in time I could help this team out and that I could go far."
Much of the camp was spent working on offense and defense, one-on-one, two-on-two and small groups. There were two scrimmages and Kai scored in the one last Saturday.
Kai reports to Carson next Tuesday. The team stops in New Jersey before heading to Portugal.
In group matches, the Americans play China on March 9, Denmark on March 11 and France on March 13.
The other group includes Norway, Sweden, Finland and World No. 1 Germany.
The group winners play for the championship March 15.