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Lilly set caps record, scores game-winner in victory over Japan.

KOBE, Japan (Thursday, May 21, 1998) -- Kristine Lilly became the world's all-time leader in international appearances by playing in her 152nd match for the United States today. She celebrated the occasion by netting the deciding goals as the U.S. defeated Japan 2-0 before 1,039at Memorial Stadium.

Lilly broke the appearance record of 151 held previously by the now retired Heidi Stoere of Norway, and is now the most capped international soccer player in history, men or women.

The U.S. completes the three-game series against Japan Sunday in Yokohama at the brand new 70,000-seat International Stadium, built for the menís 2002 World Cup. The match will be played before the Japan faces the Czech Republic, Japan's last domestic game before departing for the World Cup in France. The state-of-the-art stadium, which opened just three months ago, is sold out for the match.

As in the U.S.ís 2-1 victory over Japan last Sunday in Tokyo, the Americans found little space in an offensive third packed with Japanese defenders, and struggled to find a rhythm in the first half, taking just two shots. One of them, however, was from Lilly, who blasted in her 57th international goal in the 36th minute after taking a pass from Tisha Venturini.

She ran toward goal and her left-footed shot swerved away from Japanese goalkeeper Nozomi Yamago, who didn't move as the Lilly buried the ball into the left side of the net. "It was important to put a goal away in the first half, so we could dictate the flow of the game," said Lilly. "To score in the game where I broke the record was nice, but to score on Japan at all is not easy, and getting the win is the most important thing."

The U.S. played without its top two scorers, forwards Mia Hamm (strained hamstring) and Tiffeny Milbrett (strained foot tendon), and the Americans lacked their usual pace in the attacking third. Having switched to forward from her usual left midfield position on this trip, Lilly caused havoc in the Japanese defense with her mobility, and with increased possession in the second half, the USA created a handful of dangerous chances.

Debbie Keller who had both goals in Sundayís 2-1 victory over Japan, got the second goal in the 65th minute in a remarkably similar fashion to her winning goal in Tokyo when she headed in the goalkeeper's deflection of Brandi Chastain's shot. This time Chastain skied to meet Lorrie Fair's corner kick and bounced a header towards the Japanese goal. Keller, standing just two yards out, re-directed the bouncing ball into the net for her 11th international tally, sixth in the last six matches.

"Japan plays a very organized defense, it's difficult to find space, and once they gain possession, they don't lose it quickly," said U.S. coach Tony DiCicco. "We need to take better care of the ball and play quicker to break down their defense, but overall I'm pleased with my team's performance, and it was a well-deserved win."

Japan had one dangerous opportunity as Tamaki Uchiyama took advantage of a rare U.S. defensive lapse in the 56th minute, but her shot that would have tied the game caromed off the left post.Japan pushed hard at the end, taking three of their four total shots in the last five minutes, but none bothered U.S. goalkeeper Tracy Ducar, who picked up the shutout.

The U.S. came close to adding its goal total several times, but Cindy Parlow's header of a corner kick was brilliantly saved by Yamago in the 72nd minute, and one minute later, Shannon MacMillan's drive from a sharp angle was kicked-saved by the Japanese keeper.

Japan has shown to be a much-improved team from the one the USA beat, 4-0, in the quarterfinals of the 1995 Women's World Cup in Sweden.Japan is one of five teams that already has qualified for the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, earning one of three Asian berths at the 11th Asian Cup in China last December.

DiCicco praised the play of several players, including veteran Joy Fawcett and young defenders Christie Pearce and Fair, but it was Lilly's day. "It's fitting that Kristine scored the winning goal," he said. "Every player and staff member is proud to be on the same field with her. The record is a special accomplishment and a credit to her magnificent consistency."

Hamm, who pulled her right hamstring just 14 minutes into the match in Tokyo, is still listed as doubtful for the game in Yokohama, while Milbrett will likely play.

The U.S. team returns home May 25, and then heads to Washington, D.C., to play New Zealand on May 30 at RFK Stadium (kickoff at 11:00 a.m. ET). That match will serve as a preliminary to the U.S. men's game against Scotland, the last American outing before the World Cup.

United States 2, Japan 1

Lineups: Japan - Nozomi Yamago, Rie Yamaki, Kae Nishina (Yumi Umeoka, 85), Hiromi Isozaki, Mai Nakachi, Tomoe Sakai (Ayumi Hara, 46), Homare Sawa, Tomomi Mitsui, Miki Sugawara (Mayumi Omatsu, 46), Nami Otake (Yuko Morimoto, 81), Tamaki Uchiyama (Kazumi Kishi, 81). United States - Tracy Ducar, Carla Overbeck, Christie Pearce (Tiffany Roberts, 73), Joy Fawcett, Lorrie Fair, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy (Kate Sobrero, 64), Tisha Venturini (Shannon MacMillan, 59), Debbie Keller (Sara Whalen, 84), Kristine Lilly, Cindy Parlow.

Scoring: United States - Lilly (Venturini) 36; Keller (Chastain) 65. Shots: Japan 4, United States 11. Saves: Japan 4, United States 1. Corner kicks: Japan 0, United States 7. Fouls: Japan 4, United States 5. Offside: Japan 5, United States 2.

Referee: Lim Eun Ju (South Korea). Assistant referees: Zuo Xiudi (China), Hisae Yoshizawa (Japan). Attendance: 1,039 at Universiade Memorial Stadium in Kobe, Japan. Weather: Warm, hazy, 79 degrees.