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U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM

April 6, 2008
ONE STEP CLOSER
U.S. women a win away from Olympics


Natasha Kai scored two goals for the United States.
Natasha Kai scored two goals for the United States.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico -- Natasha Kai scored two goals and Abby Wambach added one in a 3-1 victory over Mexico at the Estadio Olimpico Benito Juarez Sunday. The victory gave the U.S. first place in Group A at the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic qualifying tournament and a semifinal match against Group B runner-up Costa Rica Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET for a berth in the Beijing Olympics.

Canada, which defeated Costa Rica, 1-0, Sunday in the final match of Group B will face Mexico in the other semifinal. The winner of that 9:30 p.m. ET match will earn CONCACAF’s second berth to the Olympics.

The packed house and pro-Mexican crowd of 22,280 created an atmosphere not often experienced by the U.S. women, which scored all of their goals in the first half of a highly entertaining and well played game by both countries. It was the 15th largest crowd ever to watch the American women outside of the United States and the largest outside the U.S. in the western hemisphere.

"We saw Mexico play three days ago so we knew the formation, but they have a 12th player, and that's the crowd. It was absolutely wonderful," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "This is my first time here in Mexico with the U.S. team and that kind of crowd, I appreciate it a lot. We knew there would be battles, a lot of one v one, and a technical Mexico team. So we needed to stay focused in defending and find the space outside their backs. We did a pretty good job at the end of the day."

Sundhage made four changes to the lineup that defeated Jamaica, 6-0, Friday, inserting Hope Solo in goal, Rachel Buehler at right back, Tobin Heath at left midfield and Kai up top with Wambach.

All the scoring occurred in the first half.

Kai, off a Heather O'Reilly feed, gave the U.S. the lead in the 13th minute with her 11th international goal. Lupita Worbis equalized for the hosts off a 30-yard rocket in the 31st minute.

But a minute later, Wambach gave the Americans the lead, converting a long pass from defender Kate Markgraf for her 92nd international score. Kai added an unassisted, nine-yard insurance goal off another O'Reilly feed in the 45th minute, with only seconds remaining in the half.
   
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