Sky Blue welcomes back Natasha Kai

kai

by TOM SLATER

After weeks of retirements, trades and transfers, Sky Blue FC finally began the task of building a roster for the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season.

And they brought back a familiar face and old friend.

Sky Blue announced the signing of former United States Women’s National Team and Sky Blue FC forward Natasha Kai for this season.The excitable and sometimes electrifying scorer figures to replace Nadia Nadim at striker and will more than likely be the running mate of Australia’s Sam Kerr.

Kai returns to the club after previously playing two seasons in New Jersey, where she held a key role in helping the team raise the 2009 Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) championship. She followed that up with two years with Philadelphia and scored a hat trick against Sky Blue.

Although the colorful player has been involved in rugby, she has not played professionally since 2011.

“I am very happy to be back in New Jersey and part of Sky Blue FC again, not to mention playing alongside Christie Rampone like old times,”  Kai said. “I want to thank Christy Holly, Christie Rampone and Sky Blue FC ownership for presenting me with an opportunity to be part of this great and respected franchise again. I don’t think the fans are ready to see the captain of the ship, two MAC Hermann Trophy winners, one crazy Hawaiian and all of my teammates on the pitch together. 2016 will be an exciting year.”

After a stellar collegiate career at the University of Hawaii, Kai was called up to the senior national team in 2006. She made her debut in the 2006 Algarve Cup, scoring goals in each of her first two matches with the senior national team. She was just the fourth player in U.S. WNT history to accomplish that feat. She was also a member of the U.S. WNT in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China, and she scored the game-winner in extra time of a quarterfinal match over Canada in the 2008 Olympics when the Americans won the Gold Medal. Over four years on the senior national team, Kai registered 24 goals and 13 assists in 67 matches. During that span, the U.S. WNT compiled a record of 57-1-9.

“We are beyond excited to bring in a player of Tasha’s quality and proven track record. She is going to give us so many options on the field,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach. “Tasha is someone who comes with a huge personality that is very attractive to us and really connects with the fans. She has a renewed enthusiasm and a renewed energy to come back and prove again what a quality player she is. What a great addition she will be to what we are trying to achieve this season and beyond.”

Kai, 32, started her professional club career with Sky Blue FC after being allocated to the New Jersey side in the 2009 U.S. WNT allocation for Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). During that inaugural campaign, Kai tallied six goals and one assist during the regular season before scoring a goal in the quarterfinal round of the WPS Playoffs to help Sky Blue FC past the Washington Freedom. She also served up the game-winning assist a week later when Sky Blue FC defeated the Los Angeles Sol to win the 2009 WPS Championship.

In the 2010 season, Kai scored another five goals in 19 appearances for Sky Blue FC. She then competed for the Philadelphia Independence in 2011, recording 10 goals in 19 matches, which was just a single tally short of the league lead. Kai then notched another goal in the 2011 WPS Semifinals to help Philadelphia past magicJack SC. The Independence eventually fell to the Western New York Flash in the 2011 WPS Championship game on penalty kicks, Kai’s second championship match appearance in three years.

Since that final WPS season, Kai spent some time playing with the USA Women’s 7’s Rugby Team and has continued to keep herself in stellar shape. She was drafted by the Washington Spirit on the 2013 draft but never appeared with the club.

“This is an exciting signing for both fans of Sky Blue FC and the women’s game in general,” said Tony Novo, Sky Blue FC President & General Manager. “We are very pleased to have Tasha coming back to New Jersey, and we know she will have a tremendous impact on our club, both on and off the field. She always plays with an incredible amount of energy, and we cannot wait to see her in a Sky Blue FC kit once again this season.”