U.S. women's quarterfinal hero Kai marches to beat of her own drum
SHANGHAI -- Most soccer games last two hours in real time from the kickoff to the final whistle. But there are exceptions sometimes, and the U.S. women's strange, rain-soaked 2-1 Olympic quarterfinal win over Canada here on Friday was an exception for the ages.
Four hours and 10 minutes after the opening whistle, on a marathon evening extended by a 1 hour, 40-minute lightning delay and a 30-minute extra-time period, the Americans celebrated clinching a berth in the semifinals against Japan on Monday.
For me, one indelible image will remain from this night: the sight of Hawaiian forward
I couldn't help but wonder:
But I should have known better. Kai's targets included the remaining U.S. fans, her energy-sapped teammates and, not least, herself. And when Kai headed home the game-winner in the 11th minute of extra-time from
"She's a different breed," said U.S. goalkeeper
Something tells me the men's team would have approached things a bit differently.
"I guess you could consider I'm different -- the way I look, my personality," Kai told me afterward. "But that's how I am. I'm just
If Kai wasn't scoring goals for the U.S. soccer team, I figure she might be bombing around a roller-derby track somewhere in a town near you.
It was hilarious watching the Woman with One Red Shoe explain her tattoos to a bewildered (and slightly scared) female Chinese journalist after the game. "It's part of my culture," Kai said. "I have my family on my arm."
"Family!" the Chinese journalist exclaimed.
"This is all my family right here," Kai said, showing the names on her right arm tattoos. "So I know every time I travel I won't be with them, but I know if I looked on my arm they're with me in spirit."
All joking aside, Kai needed to make a big contribution after losing her starting forward spot to
"It's hard for her," Solo said. "She's been a starter now for quite some time. She wasn't playing her best, I think she knew it. It's hard to handle, you know. I went through that last year. She's not quite her cheery self, but we expect that and we're here for her."
"I had a little talk with her. I told her, 'Tash, we're going to need you big-time this tournament. You're going to have to come on the field, we're going to need goals from you, so figure out a way to make it happen.'"
On Friday, she did. Losing her defender in the Canadian box, Kai sprinted on to Boxx's cross for her game-changing header, in which the ball struck her smack-dab on her custom-made headband that features the jersey numbers of injured U.S. players
It was a nice piece of symbolism: On a night when the U.S. got one step closer to a repeat gold medal, it was as if the players who