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U-20 WNT Midfielder/Forward Kelley O'Hara


She’s just 18-years-old, but the whippet-quick midfielder/forward has made quite an impression for the USA at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship. To say the least, it’s been an eventful tournament so far for the Fayetteville, Georgia native. She’s scored twice in the tournament, tallying the first goals in the USA’s wins vs. DR Congo and Germany. If you are reading the U-20 blog, you also know that she pulled a wood molding off the top of a hotel door while trying to do pull-ups. Returning to Moscow for the final week of the tournament after the big victory over Germany in St. Petersburg, O’Hara sat down with ussoccer.com’s Center Circle to answer some questions, ranging from her goals at this world championship to how she is really looking forward to donning the Cardinal jersey at Stanford.

Center Circle: So, you’ve scored two goals at the World Championship so far. Have you been satisfied with your performance?

Kelley O’Hara: “You can always do better, but it’s been great to score and help out the team in that way. I know I can play a lot better than I have been, maybe just having better ball possession. Even though I have scored, I feel like I can do better in the attacking third, although the learning experience from these matches has been awesome, and I know it will make a big difference in my game from here on.”

CC: You, Tobin Heath and Casey Nogueira are the youngest players on the team, but you all have made impacts on the tournament so far. Talk about how the youngsters have been able to step up.

KO’H: “I think we are all just really happy to be on this team, but at the same time we are all very competitive and it is very important to us to make an impact on the game when we do get the chance to get out there. I don’t think any of us get nervous, we are just having fun and enjoying the experience.”

CC: Do you get treated like the baby on the team?

KO’H: “Everybody takes care of us and looks after us, but the team chemistry is so great on this team that everyone is treated like equals and we have so much fun. We do get made fun of quite a lot for being the babies, but that’s just part of it. We don’t have to carry any extra equipment or anything because everyone does that.”

CC: You are heading straight into your freshman season at Stanford after this tournament. Are you excited to be a college student-athlete?

KO’H: “I am probably more excited to be the athlete than the student, but it goes hand-in-hand. I am excited to finally get to Stanford and play with all my new teammates, and I am really just excited to get to college. It seems like I have been waiting forever to get there.”

CC: You have played both forward and flank midfield in this tournament. What do you prefer?
KO’H: “It kind of depends. I like them both because they are both attacking positions. At outside mid, there is more running involved, but I don’t really mind that. I guess I don’t really have a preference. I think I will be playing forward at Stanford so I am looking forward to that.”

CC: Anyone who watches ussoccer.com’s all_access video knows that you are an expert at pencil tricks. Is that something that can be learned as an adult, or do you need hours of practice in boring high school classes to perfect it?

KO’H: “Well, that is where I perfected my pen and pencil twirling skills, but maybe if you have a boring job or boring college classes, you can try to learn the pencil tricks. Some words of warning though; You will drop the pencil and it might go flying all over the room so your teachers are bound to get mad at you. I got more than a few dirty looks from my teachers in high school as my pencil clattered off my desk.”

CC: U.S. U-20 head coach Tim Schulz has been a big proponent of “enjoying the journey” and the team certainly has embraced that. Talk about the cultural experience you’ve had in Russia.

KO’H: “We’ve gotten to see the cupcake house (really St. Basil’s Cathedral) and the Kremlin at Red Square. We’ve gone to art museums and went on a boat tour, but I really enjoy the freedom he gives us with our personal time. If you want to go out of the hotel and see the sights, you can, or you can stay in the hotel and just chill. I like to do paint-by-numbers, read and watch Animal Planet. I am learning a lot. I now know what Australia’s deadliest snake is and how to deal with a snake bite.”

CC: The players on the other teams have been really keen to trade gear with you guys, and you are good friends with Ali Riley, a player on the New Zealand team who grew up in Southern California and now attends Stanford. What is your method for getting the best trades with the other teams?

KO’H: “Basically, you have to convince them that your stuff is really cool and will look really good on them, even if it is just a white t-shirt with a Nike logo and U.S. Soccer crest. Then, you have to spy something that you can’t live without. Then, you have to go in for the kill, but not look like you are too anxious. That’s how I got my sweet Australian game shorts. Ali also gave me a very sharp, blue Nike New Zealand warm-up top. She’s a sweetheart. I’ll try to make it up to her at school.”

CC: You are traveling all the way from Georgia to Northern California for school. You have absolutely no Southern accent, sandy brown hair, a seriously messy bun and plenty of freckles. Do you think you will immediately become a California girl?

KO’H: “All my friends think I am going to turn into some sort of a hippie, but I don’t think that will happen. I am just going to enjoy the weather and the total lack of humidity. Yes! It will be nice to go to class without immediately breaking out in a full body sweat.”

CC: You are just 18, but are one of the best players for your age in the country. Can you talk about a few of your soccer role models?

KO’H: “I’ve had good coaches all through my club soccer years. My main coach, Brian Moore, who coached me for the longest time, obviously had a huge impact on the player that I am today. Now I am really looking forward to going to Stanford and getting coached by Paul Ratcliffe, Sarah Kate Noftsinger and Jay Cooney. Being in that kind of environment with such great people and players, I can’t help but grow myself.”

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