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September 13, 2008
U.S. starts fun tour with 2-0 win

By Charles Cuttone
Executive Editor

Natasha Kai celebrates her goal in the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Ireland at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday.
Natasha Kai celebrates her goal in the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Ireland at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
PHILADELPHIA, Pa---Now it’s for fun. After proving they could come back from adversity to win the Olympic Gold Medal, the United States Women’s National Team embarked on their Achieve Your Gold Tour with a 2-0 win over Ireland that easily could have been more lopsided.

The U.S outshot Ireland 20-4, and Natasha Kai and Heather O’Reilly scored the two goals in front of 13,176 at Lincoln Financial Field.

“I’m glad Hea O (Heather O’Reilly) got the goal,” said U.S Coach Pia Sundhage. “Because today we talked about what she should be working on, shooting and finishing. It was great for all of us to see that goal.”

The U.S. spent a lot of time camped in front of the Ireland goal before actually hitting the net in the 32nd minute. O’Reilly made a square pass from the right side and the always effervescent Kai slipped between two defenders to connect with a header.

Less than two minutes later Kai made a run on goal and got off a shot which was stopped by Irish goalkeeper Emma Byrne. The rebound went out to Shannon Boxx, whose first shot was also blocked by Byrne. Boxx was about to tee up a third attempt when defender Niamh Fahey tackled the ball away.

Boxx took some early chances as the U.S tried to test the Ireland defense. In the third minute, her 25-yard shot that sailed high over the net. Two minutes later she tried from 15 yards, this time going wide right. In the 23rd minute, Boxx made a run down the middle and beat her defender, only to have her shot deflected out of play. Her best chance came in the 23rd minute, when she settled the ball just in front of the goal with her first touch, and fired a shot. Byrne made a tremendous reflex save to block the shot.

O’Reilly, who seems to have an overdrive gear, made a great run down the right, blowing past her defender before cutting into the penalty area. She took one touch too many, and the ball was easily scooped up by Byrne.

Ireland did not get their first shot until the 21st minute, when Stefanie Curtis took a 20 yarder that Hope Solo watched sail over the goal.

O’Reilly, who was playing in her 100th game for the United States, finally got the second goal for the United States. The New Jersey native made a long run down the middle before teeing up a 20 yard rising shot that hit the cross bar before bouncing down and in. Byrne had no chance to even react to the shot.

Even though these games are essentially meaningless, Sundhage, who has been working on a one-year contract, is using them to improve the team.

“We will talk about going into the attacking third. We will work on that, hopefully for the next two years,” said Sundhage, who is expected to receive a long-term extension from U.S. Soccer.

Still, it was something for the players to enjoy, especially Carli Lloyd, who is from Delran, NJ.

“We were looking to have fun,” said Lloyd. “to give the fans some good soccer to watch, some fun soccer. That was important to us.”
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