Sep 15, 2017 | Story & Images from USSOCCER.COM
In the 32-year history of the U.S. Women’s National Team, just 35 women have played in 100 or more games for their country. On Friday, Sept. 15 against New Zealand in Colorado, defender Kelley O’Hara joins that elite club.
O'Hara joins the 100 Cap Club.
“Eleven-year-old little Kelley… I remember being at tryouts for Lightning Soccer Club and at the end they said, ‘who wants to one day be on the Women’s National Team?’,” she recalled the day before she would take the field for her 100th game. “Everyone raised their hands. I was looking around and I was thinking, ‘I mean, I don’t really want to but I need to raise my hand if I want to make this team!’. But that’s because I played a lot of sports and wasn’t in love with soccer back then. Pretty soon after, I made it my number one thing and then the first time I ever stepped onto the field wearing the U.S. crest as a youth player, I always dreamed of winning World Cups and Olympics. I don’t know if I ever thought of getting to 100 caps, but it’s pretty crazy that it’s taken me this far.”
O’Hara’s first caps with the WNT came back in 2010 when she was 22-years old. That year she played in three games to be exact, all of them as a flank midfielder. As a forward or outside midfielder, O’Hara was one of the greatest goal scorers in the history of the U.S. Youth National Teams (24 goals in 35 U-20 caps). She scored 57 career goals with 32 assists at Stanford University and won the Hermann Trophy during her senior year in 2009 as college soccer’s best player.
On March 28, 2010 against Mexico, Kelley O'Hara made her debut with the U.S. WNT.
She went on to play in four WNT games in 2011, once again mostly in the midfield, and finally broke through in a big way in 2012, albeit at a position no one would have expected, except maybe then-head coach Pia Sundhage, who moved her to outside back. It was an experiment that proved fruitful for both O’Hara and the USA.
In 2012, she played in 26 matches, starting 25 of those, which of course included the USA’s six-game run to the 2012 Olympic gold medal in London. O’Hara played every minute of every game.
Her speed, tenacity, now-legendary endurance and comfort in the attacking third helped energize the U.S. attack and her incredible mental and physical toughness helped her overcome her naivete as a full-time defender.
O'Hara and Heather Mitts celebrate after winning the Gold Medal at the 2012 Olympics.
“The most uncomfortable part (about playing outside back) was that I’d never been on that particular patch of grass before facing that direction,” O’Hara told ussoccer.com before the 2016 Olympics. “Over my entire soccer career, I was always getting the ball near half field, back to goal or running onto the ball in the attacking third, but not once in my life had I stood in that spot on the field and received a pass with the intention of getting the ball forward. And then there was the defending part.”
Despite switching positions, one does not lose the attacking qualities she displayed for so many years. Her first goal for the senior National Team came on the biggest of stages in what was, at that point, one of the most important matches of her career. On June 30, 2015, she came off the bench to replace Tobin Heath and scored one of U.S. Soccer’s most historic and memorable goals in the semifinal of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.
O'Hara scored her first WNT career goals against Germany in the semifinal of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.
In that match, the USA took the 1-0 lead against Germany after Carli Lloyd converted a high-pressure penalty kick in the 69th minute. Lloyd then created the clinching goal with a dynamic dribbling move to the end line on the left side in the 84th minute. She played the ball across the face of the goal to the darting O’Hara whose redirected the ball into the net with a flying first-time volley with her right foot to send the USA to the World Cup Final.
Five days later, O’Hara and the WNT would go on to win the Women’s World Cup, making her an Olympic AND World Cup champion.
“This profession, this career, just being a member of this team, I don’t think anyone would say it’s smooth sailing at all times,” said O’Hara. “It’s a lot of ups and downs, but I think just being able to ride the wave and get through the hard times and be able to step onto the field 100 times for your country is pretty cool.”