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New Zealand No Match for U.S.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When she was in her early teens, growing up in Los Altos, Calif., Lorraine Ming Fair had one player she idolized.

“When I was younger, I went to a clinic and Michelle Akers was there,” Fair said. “She had this poster of her wrapped in an American flag, and she signed it for me and I had it, like, up in my room and stuff.

“But she wasn’t the only one. She just happened to be at the clinic. It was all the girls.”

Ah, yes, all the girls. That would be the 1991 women’s world champions, later to become 1996 Olympic gold medalists. The U.S. national team, in fact. Akers included.

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Today, they are no longer girls. But then neither is their former fan. Better known simply as Lorrie Fair, the 20-year-old defender is one of the most promising newcomers on the national team.

Saturday, in front of 46,037 at RFK Stadium, she showed why, scoring her first international goal as the United States trounced New Zealand, 5-0, and extended its winning streak to nine.

The goal came in the 54th minute, not long after Akers had been taken out of the game after being struck on the side of the jaw by an errant punch from New Zealand goalkeeper Rachel Howard as both went for the ball.

It was a long day down at Howard’s end, and the Kiwi keeper already had conceded three first-half goals by the time Fair scored hers.

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The North Carolina junior received a perfect pass from Debbie Keller, a “birthday ball,” she called it. Her first-time shot from about 15 yards was well struck and on target. “It is little bit weird that I scored,” said Fair, whose twin sister, Ronnie, a Stanford junior, also has played for the United States. “Usually, I hit them high or wide.”

This shot, though, was neither high nor wide, but handsome. It flashed just inside the left post as Howard dived to save it and came up empty.

Much the same had happened in the early going. Cindy Parlow gave the United States the lead in the 6th minute off a pass from Joy Fawcett. Keller made it 2-0 in the 15th minute off a Tiffeny Milbrett pass, and Keller scored again three minutes later, this time unassisted.

“She had an excellent game. She’s been our leading scorer over the past month,” U.S. Coach Tony DiCicco said of Keller, who earned the start in place of injured Mia Hamm. “But there were a lot of good performances out there. It was fun to watch.”

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Milbrett closed the scoring with a goal in the 77th minute off a pass from Fair. Afterward, Milbrett did a little dance at midfield. For the U.S. women, it’s never too hot to celebrate.

Especially now that the men’s team is heading for France and the women are set to begin the yearlong buildup to their own World Cup, next June 19-July 10 in the United States.

This time, Fair won’t be the teenage fan pinning pictures to her bedroom wall at home. She hopes to be out there on the field, winning a world championship of her own.


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