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Kealia Ohai: The heart of the Dash is about to return

Do we hear that Kealia Ohai will soon be back on the field? (photo courtesy Michael J Cox)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Kealia Ohai knew she was a month from playing. Her words were more optimistic, like she was trying to speak something into existence, but for all the progress she’d made over the previous eight months, she knew where her recovery was at. She was building back to full strength, training on the side, avoiding contact until her team was sure everything her surgically repaired knee will be asked to do is back in its repertoire.

That meant life in the press box during the Houston Dash’s three preseason games at the Thorns’ spring tournament in March. There she sat, engaged as if she’d be asked to write, interacting with the rest of the tournament’s staff and media. Who is that new forward, someone asked no one? That’s Veronica Lashko, Ohai offered. And did you see who went down? That’s Rachel Daly. The only things she asked in return: Some help from the locals who knew the best restaurants in downtown Portland.

Ohai was engaged. She was ready. She not only wanted to be around it, she wanted to be back to where she was last June, before she went down. Her left knee’s grade 3 ACL sprain and medial meniscus tear had come after leading the NWSL in goals and claiming a spot in the U.S. women’s national team. Instead of that continued path, nine months defined by surgery, recovery, rehab, and doubt jumped onto calendar, snatching a year from the prime of the 26-year-old.

“It was very difficult for me, and the team, as well,” she said, from the field at the University of Portland’s Merlo Field. …

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