Kai commits to U.S. team
Natasha Kai arrived back in Hawaii on Friday after 18 hours in the air on a two-day trek from Portugal, where she made her first three appearances with the United States Women's National Soccer Team.
Kai suffered a concussion in the Algarve Cup championship match against Germany and was carried off the field on a stretcher following a head-to-head collision with a German player.
"The coaches told me to take a break until my headache goes away. I am not to have any kind of physical contact until residency camp," said Kai, who scored two goals in her first two matches.
"I am definitely going to residency camp."
She will put her college education on hold at Hawaii this semester and the fall semester to continue her career with the WNT that is preparing for the 2007 World Cup.
Residency camp at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., starts April 2 and lasts through September.
Kai did not play in the first match against China, then was substituted into the matches against Denmark, France and Germany in the second half.
"Every time Coach (Greg) Ryan told me to go in he said to stay by the last defender. He said I was fast enough to beat any defender if my teammates put a ball through. They did and I got two goals," Kai said.
The time on the bench was something new for Kai, who started the majority of her matches for the Rainbow Wahine.
"I got to see a lot of things I wasn't used to, little things you don't see when playing. It helped a lot," Kai said.
"I had to be patient and I accepted the fact I was new on the team. It helped me a lot to have Abby Wambach to talk to. She helped me become a better player."
Kai has been with her teammates for a month. Their interaction on the field with her and her interaction with them will only continue to improve during residency camp.
"We're going to be together for five months. It is a great opportunity. I am so lucky to be able to play with such wonderful girls and athletes. It is really hard to explain. I'm at a loss for words," Kai said.
"My job is to take the advice of my teammates and use it. I also learned a lot from our defense coach about understanding what opponent defense does."
A sociology major, she will have one more year of school to graduate.
"I just want to play soccer right now," said Kai, who said the U.S. had a good number of supporters in Portugal.
"The championship game was a good game. There were some iffy calls, but you still have to keep your head."