- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 16, 2006

Kristine Lilly should win the FIFA Female Player of the Year, which will be announced today in Zurich.

No other comes close to Lilly in 2006, not to mention her 20-year career.

The 35-year-old captained the U.S. national team to a Gold Cup championship last month, scoring the game-winner in a 2-1 victory over Canada — her 117th goal in 319 games. Lilly also was named tournament MVP of the Gold Cup, the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea in November and the Four Nations Cup earlier this year in China.

Led by Lilly, the U.S. team was unbeaten in regulation in 32 games and closed the year with a record of 18-0-4. Lilly is in competition for the award with Germany’s Renate Lingor, who helped Frankfurt win the UEFA title this season, and Brazil’s Marta, who plays in Sweden.

Lilly finished the year with 13 goals, the second-highest total of her international career.

Fabio Cannavaro of Italy, Ronaldinho of Brazil and Frenchman Zinedine Zidane of France are up for the men’s award.

Teammates, fans say farewell — I’ll miss Freddy Adu. He showed glimpses of his talent but lacked consistency. He was fun to watch and never shied away from expressing his feelings.

But with Christian Gomez in the central midfield role, Adu never seemed comfortable playing on the wings.

“I’m very excited about the trade for Freddy,” said United veteran midfielder Ben Olsen, who just returned from Jamaica, where he was married, on Wednesday. “I always said the worst thing to happen for Freddy was Christian Gomez. That central role is Freddy’s position. He will be able to excel in Salt Lake and he’ll have more freedom on the field. We expect to see some exciting highlight reels coming out of Salt Lake.”

United fans seemed pleased with the Adu trade.

“Freddy will be happy, Peter [Nowak] will be happy, and now we can paint banners saying Much Adu About Nothing,” said Kim Klyberg, who heads the Screaming Eagles, a United fan club.

The United made another trade yesterday, sending veteran defender Brandon Prideaux to the Colorado Rapids for two third-round draft picks — one in 2007 and another in 2008.

“At the end of the season, Brandon requested a move closer to his home and this move will accommodate his request,” United technical director Dave Kasper said.

United is expected to announce more player moves soon.

“It’s no secret we need some options up top and a wide-midfielder to complement Josh Gros,” Olsen said.

Hunt’s soccer impact — Lamar Hunt, the longtime Kansas City Chiefs owner who died Wednesday night, also made his mark in the sport of soccer.

Hunt helped start the North America Soccer League in 1967 and Major League Soccer in 1996.

Hunt approached me in the press box at RFK Stadium in the early 1990s after noticing my English accent. When I told him I was originally from Birmingham, he said: “I once tried to buy your team Aston Villa.”

“Who’s this?” I wondered. Only later did I find out it was Hunt, one of the richest men in America. Another American — Randy Lerner — now owns Villa.

Champions league — Yesterday’s draw for the European Champions League knockout stage matched Barcelona in a two-game series with Liverpool. Manchester United received an easy draw at French club Lille, while Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho will visit his old Portuguese club Porto, which he led to the title in 2004.

The other matchups: Glasgow Celtic (Scotland) vs. AC Milan (Italy), Inter Milan (Italy) vs. Valencia (Spain), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) vs. Arsenal (England), Real Madrid (Spain) vs. Bayern Munich (Germany) and AS Roma (Italy) vs. Lyon (France).

The first games are Feb. 20-21, with the second set on March 6-7.

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