Boston Breakers midfielder Kelley O’Hara was a late addition to the United States’ Women’s World Cup roster. It was a moment of agonizing misfortune for veteran midfielder Lindsay Tarpley, who tore her ACL in a friendly match against Japan on May 14, which gave O’Hara the opportunity to go to the tournament in Germany.
O’Hara had been in camp with the U.S. all spring but was one of the last players cut from the initial team that U.S. Head Coach Pia Sundhage named. But Tarpley’s injury led to O’Hara being recalled to the team in a series of events that brought her to the Women’s World Cup as the least capped player on the U.S. team. With her one tournament appearance in a 2-1 group stage loss to Sweden (she played 17 minutes), O’Hara earned her sixth cap with the senior national team.
But the Fayetteville, Ga. native knew going into the tournament that she would not play much, if at all. Her role was to push her teammates and provide a spark in training and off the bench, something O’Hara embraced.
Now, with her first Women’s World Cup behind her, the just-turned-23-year-old O’Hara (born August 4, 1988) is focused on getting the Boston Breakers into the WPS playoffs. That will be a tough task after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Western New York Flash.
The Breakers are currently in fifth place, three points behind Sky Blue FC for the final playoff spot. Luckily for Boston, there are two games to play – both of which are at home, including the regular season finale against Sky Blue FC on August 14. Here is what O’Hara had to say on Tuesday on topics ranging from the Women’s World Cup, to WPS, to her personal progression over the past 18 months:
Jeff Kassouf: Thursday is your birthday. How are you looking to celebrate that?
Kelley O’Hara: My family and my mom and my dad are coming up to Boston, so they are going to hang out until Sunday. We are going to go out to dinner. They haven’t been up yet since I’ve been there, so we are excited to hang out and get some family time.
JK: In the video that you recently did with Nike, you said that sometimes you have to sacrifice birthdays to be a top athlete. Is that the case this year?
KO: Besides getting up at 5:30 to fly back – and then we have practice. I’ll have the rest of the day to hang out.
JK: How much will you be doing with Nike?
KO: They are one of my sponsors so I just do what they ask me to do. They are great. They’ve given me a lot of opportunities to do stuff like that video, photo shoots and that sort of thing.
JK: You replaced Lindsay Tarpley on the Women’s World Cup roster after Tarpley went down with a knee injury in a friendly match. What kind of mixed emotions did you experience?
KO: Obviously she got hurt and found out about it. When Pia had originally cut me she said, ‘just be ready. You never know what can happen.’ That sort of thing. So I had hoped that I would get the call and it took a little bit and Pia just sat me down and just said ‘you’re going to Germany and you know the role you are going to need to play.’ Which is just kind of practice player, bench player, supporting role, so it just kind of went from there and I just enjoyed it.
JK: You played 17 minutes in the Sweden game. What was that like for you?
KO: It was kind of unexpected, but it was cool. It was exciting to be able to play in a World Cup and a World Cup game. It was kind of an unfortunate situation to go in when we were down 2-1 but they just said to go in and try to get forward.
JK: Looking forward for you, there are the Olympics in 2012 and the next Women’s World Cup in 2015. What are some of your personal goals?
KO: Right now, just finishing up the WPS season, trying to make the playoffs and then hopefully make a run at the championship. But then after that is over, kind of taking some time off and regrouping and getting back into the swing of things and trying to make the Olympic team for sure. So, I can’t even think about the next World Cup. It is too far away. But the Olympics are definitely very close.
JK: What has it been like switching coasts from FC Gold Pride to Boston?
KO: It is interesting. I grew up in Georgia, so I am from the East Coast, but I have never lived in the Northeast. And I definitely miss San Francisco; it’s like my favorite city in the U.S. – favorite city I’ve lived in. But Boston is awesome and I love my team here and I have really enjoyed my time.
JK: Some of your former Stanford teammates are having great seasons. You played with Ali Riley at FC Gold Pride last year as well. Can you talk about Christen Press’ rookie season? She is having a great start to her professional career.
KO: She is doing excellent and I am really excited for her. It’s great to see one of your good friends and past teammates do well so she’s been great. And Ali obviously is always consistent and is one of the best backs in the league so it’s exciting to watch them do so well. So it’s exciting.
JK: How much do you stay in touch with them?
KO: Pretty good touch. Whenever we play each other we will hang out and see each other. And Christen and I might live together in the fall – you never know. She’s going back to Stanford.
JK: Do you have to finish up work at Stanford?
KO: No, I am just going to go back there to hang out and train at Stanford and just enjoy life. Surf.
JK: Are you a big surfer?
KO: I like to do it. I’m not good, but it’s fun.
JK: It’s been over a year and a half since that NCAA final that Stanford lost in your senior year. How have you seen yourself progress since then?
KO: It’s definitely – I don’t know, you go from being in college for four years and then I went straight from that championship game into National Team camp and from there I just started playing with them consistently. And then I had my rookie season in WPS and then this season, so it’s been kind of a whirlwind but it’s been fun. I like it. It’s nice to have soccer as your job.
JK: Where do you prefer to play on the field – up top or out wide?
KO: I like playing wide in a 4-3-3, but I also like playing high. If I was playing in a 4-4-2, I guess outside midfielder, but I do prefer to play closer to the goal.
JK: Where do you see yourself on this U.S. team?
KO: Honestly, I have no idea. We’ll see what happens. Who knows if there is going to be a change-up in the formation. We’ll see what Pia has on tap for next year.
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