The underdog prevailed Tuesday night in Montreal.
Not only did No. 2 United States knock off No. 1 Germany in a somewhat shocking 2-0 victory — a score and goal disparity very few people predicted — but Stanford alumna Kelley O’Hara ‘10 came off the bench during the 75th minute and made the play ensuring that the United States team would head to Vancouver this weekend to play in its fourth World Cup finals.
Earlier in the match — the 69th minute, in fact — midfielder Carli Lloyd notched a goal for the United States off of a penalty kick, but with a little more than 20 minutes left to play, Germany threatened to equalize the game and force it into overtime. O’Hara put Germany’s hopes to rest when, nine minutes after entering the game for Tobin Heath, she took a cross from Lloyd and volleyed it past German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, putting Germany out of reach of tying the game.
It was the Fayetteville, Georgia native’s first international goal in her 62 national team appearances.
O’Hara did not even appear in the first four games of the World Cup, but with starters Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday needing to sit out in the match against China — both of them had accumulated two yellow cards — O’Hara finally saw some action and played from the start until she was subbed out at the 60th minute.
Entering the game off the bench against Germany and notching that goal could be the type of play that earns her more playing time from USWNT coach — and former UCLA coach — Julie Ellis as the United States goes into the finals.
While soccer fans may have previously known O’Hara as a player for Sky Blue FC and a member of the 2011 World Cup and 2012 Olympics teams, she was also a standout player on the Farm who left an impressive legacy and spearheaded Stanford’s emergence as one of the nation’s top collegiate soccer programs.
In fact, her clutch play comes as no surprise to those familiar with how she played at Stanford.
“I’ve seen her score like that at Stanford quite often,” Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe told GoStanford. “She has an unbelievable change of pace, and just beat her player to the ball. Unbelievable.”
As an attacker all four years on the Farm, she notched 57 goals — third best all-time at Stanford.
“She’s one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever coached,” Ratcliffe said. “No doubt about it.”
O’Hara’s exceptional offensive and defensive skills, versatility and athleticism not only set her apart from other college soccer players, but she (and former Stanford and current USWNT teammate Christen Press ’11) helped thrust Stanford onto the national collegiate stage as an elite program and establish a standard of excellence that would be maintained even after O’Hara graduated.
Her junior year — a highlight of which was a draw against powerhouse and eventual NCAA champion UNC — O’Hara helped lead the team to its first College Cup appearance since 2002, a precedent that has been followed all but one year since, as well as its first Pac-12 title since 2002.
Her senior year featured even more in store: She notched 26 of her 57 career goals, setting a school record for goals in a season that was tied a year later by Press. That year O’Hara also won the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top soccer player. It was the first time a Stanford player had received that honor.
After scoring the team’s only goal in regulation against UCLA in the national semifinal (a game later won by an OT goal from none other than Press), Stanford advanced to its first ever NCAA final. The Cardinal fell 1-0 to UNC in the championship match, and O’Hara told the SF Gate that she ‘’felt personally responsible” for the loss: She had earned two yellow cards that game, leading to her ejection with 18 minutes to play.
Though she never won a title at Stanford, she could win one this weekend. But instead of just basking in glory from the world of collegiate women’s soccer, this one could leave her a world champion.
The United States will play the winner of tonight’s matchup between Japan and England in the finals of the World Cup Sunday evening in Vancouver. The game will air at 4 p.m. PT on FOX Sports.
Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.