- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2006

SEOUL — It seems Kristine Lilly just gets better with time.

In a game that desperately needed a touch of magic to break the deadlock, the amazing 35-year-old veteran produced on cue. Lilly scored a gem of a goal to lead the U.S. women’s team to a 1-0 victory over Canada in the final of the inaugural Peace Queen Cup in Seoul World Cup Stadium yesterday.

It was the third goal of the tournament for the U.S. team captain, who was named the Peace Queen Cup MVP, and her 12th on the year.

Lilly has scored 116 goals in her 18 years with the U.S. team. Only the retired Mia Hamm has scored more (158).

“She’s always so good,” U.S. team coach Greg Ryan said of Lilly’s play. “It just shows through this tournament where she scored two big game-winners, and the tying goal against Denmark, so she deserves all the hardware.”

Lilly was lucky to be in the game. She earned a seemingly bizarre red card in Thursday’s 2-0 win over the Netherlands, for arguing with an assistant official. But according to the event’s rules, the cards in group play did not count toward the final.

Her goal came in the 68th minute of the physical game, which has become a trademark of these North American clashes.

Midfielder Ally Wagner, who four minutes early had entered the game as a substitute, released Lilly on the right flank, with a perfect long pass.

The wily veteran ran into the box, cut inside to beat the defender and let fly with her vintage left foot, beating goalie Erin McLeod from 14 yards out.

“In the first half, we had difficulty with Canada’s direct style as they knocked balls forward, and we had to weather the storm,” Lilly said. “Then we started to play the ball on the ground more and when Ally Wagner came in she played some through balls. One of those came to me. I felt the defender coming, so I cut it back on to my stronger foot and got a good ball in.”

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Peace Cup tournaments, along with his wife Hak Ja Han, presented Lilly with the trophy and the winning check for $200,000. Canada took home $50,000.

The Americans were missing Abby Wambach, the team’s leading scorer in 2006, who injured her ankle in Thursday’s game and was replaced by Lindsay Tarpley. Without Wambach’s ability to hold the ball on the ground, the U.S. team — which was playing a 4-3-3 formation — struggled to find chances with the ball in the air.

The Americans came close to taking the lead in the 26th minute, but Carli Lloyd’s shot, just inside the six-yard box, was saved by McLeod.

Christine Sinclair, who has six goals in the event, gave the U.S. team a scare in the 63rd minute. With goalie Hope Solo off her goal line, the Canadian star fired a shot. But Solo scrambled back to make the save. Both Tarpley and Natasha Kai also came close with their efforts.

In the 64th minute, Wagner came on for Angela Hucles, producing the vital pass for Lilly’s goal.

“The tournament was excellent from the stadiums we played in to the hospitality of the Koreas and the games, which involved some of the top teams in the world,” Lilly said.

The two teams have a good chance of meeting again in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final in Carson, Calif., on Nov. 26. Canada and the U.S. team were given byes to the semifinal round, which also constitutes as World Cup qualifying games for the finals in China next year.

“We are very happy to win the first Peace Queen Cup and hope to get invited back,” Ryan said.

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