Kelley O’Hara is a winner and she’s back for the World Cup

USWNT's Kelley O'Hara celebrates a win over Uzbekistan (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
USWNT's Kelley O'Hara celebrates a win over Uzbekistan (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
Kelley O'Hara third World Cup
USWNT defender Kelley O’Hara fights for ball with Australia’s Caitlin Foord. (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images) /

Kelley O’Hara has a gold medal, a bronze medal, and two World Cup trophies. I have a National Championship ring. Put them side by side and her accomplishments eclipse mine.

Yet in 2012 when she came to visit the Stanford campus with her shiny gold medal in hand, it was clear she had a hole in her soul the size of the loss in the 2009 National Championship game that we experienced together. We congratulated her on winning gold and her response was “yeah, but you won a National Championship.”

Here was a player whose career was catapulting skyward. A player who had just accomplished what only a select, elite few players ever do. And yet she looked at us with envy, lamenting over the one that got away, because she wants to win. Everything. As a player of that caliber should.

Kelley O’Hara is a gritty fighter. If you’d told me she’d bested a grizzly bear I’d be inclined to go against common sense and believe you. And she’s smart. Soccer smart, book smart. Just smart. And now she makes history as one of only 12 USWNT players to be rostered for four World Cups.

USWNT still needs the fighter in Kelley O’Hara

The USWNT is in a moment of transition as a younger generation begins to take over. I’ve been critical of a veteran or two overstaying their welcome, but Kelley O’Hara is right where she should be.

She terrifies her opponents, and probably on occasion her teammates too (but in the case of the latter, they’ll laugh about it later and grab a celebratory beer if they win the World Cup) with her tenacity, beast mode physicality, and sheer willingness to push herself further than the person next to her.

Next. USWNT unveils young World Cup roster. dark

Nearly 14 years after Kelley O’Hara and I stepped off the field together for the last time, I’m still mildly terrified of her and immensely proud of her. I’ve never seen someone give more of their heart to this game, and I’m hoping the game gives her something right back in the form of World Cup trophy No. 3.