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U.S. women

Reserve Kai nets winner in 1-0 decision over Japan.

OSAKA, Japan (Tuesday, May 9, 2006) -- Striker Natasha Kai came off the bench and scored midway through the second half to give the United States women a 1-0 victory over Japan before 15,908 at Nagai Stadium this afternoon.

The U.S. swept a two-game series with Japan, having come from behind for a 3-1 decision Sunday in Kumamoto.

Neither team provided much attack today with the U.S. leading in shots 8-3, putting three shots on net while limiting Japan to one.

"I thought Japan made it very difficult for us. I thought defensively they played very well," U.S. coach Greg Ryan said, "We created enough chances to win the game, we deserved to win, but it was a game where we needed to make more of our chances and read our opponent's defense better. Their goalkeeper played on the near side and cut a lot of balls out. We needed to play a little bit away from her more. It gives us some stuff to go back and work on."

Kai, who came on in the 55th minute and made an immediate impact with runs down the right side, found net 10 minutes later after forward Kristine Lilly and midfielder Aly Wagner worked a combination of passes.

"It means a lot to the team to come off the bench and get a goal so I was proud to come in and do that," Kai said. "I knew it was 0-0 and we were taking out the tired players that played 90 minutes in the first game (Sunday), so I knew I needed to step up."

The decisive sequence started when defender Catherine Whitehill sent a long free kick over the defense to the penalty spot where midfielder Shannon Boxx's acrobatic volley was stopped by Japan goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto's spectacular save, batting the ball over the end-line.

Lilly then played a short corner kick to midfielder Wagner on the right side. Wagner returned the ball to Lilly, who carried at a defender and froze her with fake. Lilly played a crisp pass to Wagner who fed Lilly on a run to the end line. Lilly then sent a chip to the to the far post where Kai rose above a defender to head in her third goal in five international appearances for a 1-0 lead in the 65th minute.

"I connected with (Lilly's) eyes and I knew the ball was coming," Kai said. "I just had to beat my defender to it."

Japan's most dangerous chance of the game came not on a shot, but on a 10th-minute cross by midfielder captain Homare Sawa, a ball from deep at the end-line that flew through the six-yard box but found no one at the far post.

Fukumoto wandered far out of her net throughout the match and was able to cut off numerous American through balls and crosses before they became dangerous. Both teams were strong defensively, allowing little.

The Americans did squander some opportunities. Striker Heather O'Reilly had two good chances in the first half, the first one coming in the 14th minute when she burst through a seam in the left side of the penalty area only to shoot wide right from 14 yards.

Five minutes later, O'Reilly got in behind the defense again with a 30-yard sprint down the left flank, but a retreating defender broke up the play as O'Reilly cut inside into the box.

Forward Abby Wambach, who had all three U.S. goals in Sunday's win, came up empty on two dangerous chances. In the 33rd minute, she slipped behind the defense and carried to the in the right end-line, but when she cut back to the inside, Fukumoto slid to sweep the ball away.

In the 58th minute, Kai got around the defense into the right side of the box and sent a short cross to Wambach, who could not get off a clean shot. The ball rolled to Lilly, who shot sailed high from seven yards out.

Ryan used all off his field players, making six substitutions in the second half, en route to raising his record as U.S. coach to 14-0-4.

"I think we are coming together. The main thing was that we had players come off the bench and there was never a lull in the game," said U.S. right back Heather Mitts, who logged her 50th international appearance. "We are able to play together and they had a lot of attacks coming at us, but were able to deal with it well."

The Americans did have to withstand a last-minute flurry from Japan, which earned a late corner kick and sent a 92nd-minute free kick into the box, only to see it be cleared.

"I'm very pleased with the team," Ryan said. "We're a young team that is still growing and developing."

Notes: The approximately 50,000 seats of Nagai Stadium were all sold and the stadium filled for the second game of the doubleheader in which Bulgaria defeated Japan's 2-1 in a Kirin Cup friendly.

The U.S. women will resume their residency camp Friday at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

United States 1, Japan 0

Lineups: Japan - Miho Fukumoto, Hiromi Isozaki (captain), Kozue Ando, Kyouko Yano, Azusa Iwashimizu, Tomoe Sakai, Homare Sawa, Shinobu Ohno, Iya Miyama (Rumi Utsugi 55), Mio Otani (Maiko Nakaoka 80), Yuki Nagasato (Eriko Arakawa 61). United States - Hope Solo, Heather Mitts, Cattherine Whitehill, Tina Frimpong (Amy LePeilbet 70), Christie Rampone (Stephanie Lopez 46), Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd (Lindsay Tarpley 46), Aly Wagner (Leslie Osborne 69),.Heather O'Reilly (Natasha Kai 55), Abby Wambach (Christie Welsh 65), Kristine Lilly (captain).

United States - Kai (Lilly) 65.

Shots: Japan 3, United States 8. Shots on goal: Japan 1, United States 3. Saves: Japan 2, United States 1. Corner kicks: Japan 1, United States 6. Fouls: Japan 8, United States 12. Offside: Japan 1, United States 10. Yellow card caution: United States - 92+.

Referee: Hong Eun Ha (South Korea). Assistant referees: Hisae Yoshizawa (Japan), Satomi Hamasaki (Japan). Fourth official: Pannipar Kamnueng (Thailand) Attendance: 15,908 at Nagai Stadium in Osaka, Japan. Weather: Cloudy, breezy, 72 degrees.

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