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Keller comes off bench, scores pair as U.S. beats Japan 2-1; Hamm hurt.

TOKYO, Japan (Sunday, May 17, 1998) -- Substitute forward Debbie Keller scored two late second-half goals, including the winner in the 90th minute, as the United States women came from behind to defeat Japan 2-1, before 23,774 today at National Stadium.

With the scored tied at 1-1 and the final seconds ticking away, the U.S. received a free kick 30 yards from the goal. Midfielder Kristine Lilly took the kick quickly, sending Sara Whalen behind the defense on the right wing. Whalen's hard, curling cross was met by Brandi Chastain, who sent the ball towards net with a spectacular volley.Japanese goalkeeper Nozomi Yamago made a great reaction save, but couldn't hold the ball and Keller nodded the rebound into the net with her head from two yards out to give the USA the win.

"It was fun to play in this kind of atmosphere," said Keller, who scored her seventh and eighth international goals."Coming off the bench, I have to make the most of my opportunities. Brandi's volley was unbelievable and the ball bounced right to me.We knew we could get another goal and we just kept pushing until they broke."

The match marked Lilly's 151st career international game, tying her for first place on the world's all-time appearance list with the retired Heidi Stoere of Norway. Lilly establish a new standard against Japan 21 in Kobe. The three-game series concludes May 24 at the 70,000-seat International Stadium in Yokohama, the opener for Japanís men against the Czech Republic.

"The three games in Japan are similar to our schedule in the first round of the 1999 Women's World Cup," said U.S. coach Tony DiCicco. "We travel after each game and the number of rest days are similar, so we are treating this as a dry run for the World Cup."

Reserved tickets for todayís doubleheader at the 55,000-seat stadium, that closed with Japanís men playing Paraguay, sold out in one day, and fans camped outside the stadium for several days leading up to the match in hopes of getting the limited general admission seats. Those who came early to see the women were almost rewarded with a huge upset as Japan took the lead in the 14th minute on its first shot.

A succession of square passes put Tamaki Uchiyama into the right side of the penalty box.Her well-placed cross on the ground found Nami Otake at the far post and she struck her first time shot into left corner past keeper Briana Scurry.

The U.S. lost star forward Mia Hamm in the 14th minute as she left the game with an injured hamstring, while forward Tiffeny Milbrett left the match at halftime after straining a tendon in her left foot.With Cindy Parlow replacing Hamm and Keller in for Milbrett, the USA pushed forward for most of the second half in search of an equalizer.

Hamm is doubtful for the next match; Milbrett probable.

The U.S. dominated the match territorially as the Japanese fell back into their defensive half, played with just one forward and forced the Americans to break down a packed defense.The tactic almost worked, but the patient U.S. team got the equalizer in the 71st minute.

Midfielder Julie Foudy played a short cross into the middle for Tisha Venturini, whose deft head pass put Keller behind the defense. Keller raced in on goal and bent her shot into the right corner from 12 yards out as Yamago got a hand on the ball but couldn't turn it wide.

Foudy almost gave the U.S. the win five minutes from the end, but her shot from a stiff angle on the right side rolled just wide, setting the stage for Keller's dramatic winner.

For the U.S., it was the first victory of 1998 over a team qualified for the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup in the United States.Japan was one of the first teams to qualify for the Cup, earning one of three Asian berths by finishing third at the 11th Asian Cup in China last December.

"We weren't sharp, and maybe some of that was the travel," said DiCicco. "But Japan played a smart, tactical game that almost worked.It shows that the level of sophistication of the teams around the world is rising. Japan was disciplined on defense and difficult to break down, but the U.S. team excels in the psychological part of the game, and that got us through. Losing Mia and Tiffeny with injuries certainly hurt, but Debbie Keller had the answers today."

Notes: DiCicco registered his 66th win, the most for an American womenís coach, breaking the record of 65 held by Anson Dorrance, the coach of the 1991 Women's World Cup champions.

Venturini made her 100th appearance for the U.S., joining seven other teammates who have passed the century mark.

United States 2, Japan 1

Lineups: Japan - Nozomi Yamago, Rie Yamaki, Kae Nishina, Yumi Tomei, Hiromi Isozaki, Tomoe Sakai (Mayumi Omatsu 76), Homare Sawa, Tomomi Mitsui, Miki Sugawara (Ayumi Hara 46), Nami Otake, Tamaki Uchiyama. United States - Briana Scurry, Carla Overbeck (Sara Whalen 68), Brandi Chastain, Christie Pearce (Lorrie Fair 58), Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Tisha Venturini, Shannon MacMillan (Tiffany Roberts 58), Tiffeny Milbrett (Debbie Keller 46), Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm (Cindy Parlow 20).

Scoring: Japan - Otake (Uchiyama) 14; United States - Keller (Tisha Venturini) 71; United States - Keller (Chastain) 90. Shots: Japan 2, United States 16. Saves: Japan 5, United States 1. Corner kicks: Japan 0, United States 11. Fouls: Japan 5, United States 10. Offside: Japan 0, United States 4. Yellow card cautions: Japan - Sawa 83; United States - Chastain 86.

Referee: Lim Eun Ju (South Korea). Assistant referees: Hisae Yoshizawa (Japan), Yayoi Watanabe (Japan). Attendance: 23,774 at National Stadium in Tokyo. Weather: Cloudy, humid, 71 degrees.