- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2006

SUWON, South Korea — Kristine Lilly has played 316 games of top-flight soccer for the U.S. women’s national team, but in the 2-0 win over the Netherlands at the Peace Queen Cup in Suwon yesterday, something bizarre happened. Lilly earned a red card, her first ever, and was thrown out of the game. To make matters worse, the Americans lost their key striker Abby Wambach, who injured her ankle late in the game, leaving the team with nine players for the last 10 minutes.

The red card and the injury marred the victory on goals from Lindsay Tarpley and Cat Whitehill, which put the U.S. team in the final game against Canada in Seoul’s World Cup Stadium tomorrow.

In 18 years of play for the American team, Lilly had never been sent off and had only accumulated 13 yellow cards. The 35-year-old forward is known as a quiet person and not one to talk trash on the field.

“I said something to the lineswoman about the call being a handball on the Holland player and not offside,” Lilly said. “There was frustration in my voice, but it wasn’t directed toward the referee. There was nothing derogatory or disrespectful to the referee. I shouldn’t have said it, but I think something definitely got lost in the translation.”

U.S. team coach Greg Ryan said the team will appeal the red card to the Korean Football Federation.

“The ref missed so many fouls on the day and Lilly had just been knocked to the ground and the ref did nothing about it,” Ryan said. “It may have just stemmed out of frustration, but even so it’s not a straight red card, at most a yellow, and in the men’s professional games it’s not even a yellow.”

Fortunately for Lilly, she will be able to play in tomorrow’s final against Canada. According to the Peace Queen Cup’s unique rules, yellow cards and red cards don’t count toward the final.

The incident happened in the 79th minute. Lilly, who came on at the start of the second half, seemed to indicate to the assistant referee that a Dutch defender had fouled her and the ref had not called it. The assistant referee then signaled the senior official Cha Sung Mi, who after a short discussion with her assistant brandished the red card in front of the stunned Lilly.

Even the Netherlands’ coach felt bad for Lilly.

“I think it’s a shame, because I’m a big fan of Kristine Lilly,” Vera Pauw said.

In the 81st minute, Wambach seemed to twist her ankle falling to the ground in agony and pounding the turf in anger.

Ryan said Wambach would be out of action for 10 days.

The U.S. team went into the game tied on points with Denmark but leading Group B on goal-difference by one goal.

The Dutch tested the U.S. team early yesterday, earning five corner kicks to one for the United States in the first 14 minutes. The Americans took over and broke through in the 27th minute when Tarpley, with her back to the goal, controlled a rebound, turned and fired home for her fifth goal on the year in 18 games. In first-half stoppage time, Whitehill let fly a 23-yard bullet from the top of the arc to make it 2-0.

Canada, winners of its three games in Group A, will now battle the Americans for the $200,000 prize.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Denmark needed a 4-0 goal win over Australia to advance to the final, but could only manage a 2-1 victory over the Matildas, guaranteeing an all-North American final.

The U.S. team is 15-0-4 this year and still unbeaten in regulation time and under Ryan (23-0-5) since he took over the top coaching job from April Heinrichs in early 2005. No other U.S. team’s women’s coach has ever gone unbeaten in 28 games.

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