U.S. WOMENS SOCCER
Hawaii's Kai scores in her first start for national team
CHEONAN, South Korea » Natasha Kai made her first start for the United States women's national soccer team yesterday and recorded her first assist and scored her sixth goal.
The U.S. defeated Australia 2-0 in a Peace Queen Cup preliminary-round match.
Kai sent a cross from the right into the box that Kristine Lilly tracked down. Lilly, the U.S. captain playing her 315th match, fired a shot from 14 yards out that grazed off a defender's shoulder and found the upper right corner of the net in the 20th minute. It was her 115th career goal for the national team.
In the 35th minute, Abby Wambach controlled a high pass from Lilly and fired shot at the goal.
Australian goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri came out sliding to block the cross at the edge of the 6-yard box. The ball deflected straight up in the air and dropped at the front of the goal box, where Kai, a standout at Kahuku and Hawaii, took a great touch to her right to lose a defender before blasting the ball into the net for her sixth career international goal.
Kai played the full 90 minutes in her 13th international appearance.
The victory moved the United States within a win of qualifying for the Peace Queen Cup final.
The United States leads Asian Cup runner-up Australia by one point in Group B with one preliminary round match left in the friendly tournament, a tune-up for the Americans ahead of regional qualifiers for the 2007 World Cup in China.
A loss would have put the two-time world champions out of contention for the $200,000 winner's prize as only the two group leaders advance to Saturday's final. Canada (2-0) leads Group A by two points over Brazil.
The United States plays its last group match tomorrow against the Netherlands, which lost 1-0 to Denmark yesterday.
"To get in the final it's going to come down to goal difference, so we're going to have to play a very offensive game to advance," said U.S. coach Greg Ryan.