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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

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The Science Survey

Kelley O’Hara Retires After a Shining 14-Year Long International Career in Womens’ Soccer

Kelly O’Hara’s retirement is a bittersweet occurrence as the United States Women’s National Soccer Team and Gotham FC players mourn one of their best defensive midfielders who won’t be returning for another season.
This is a recent image of Kelley O’Hara from March of 2020, one of her last few seasons in the world of professional soccer. (Photo Credit: Jamie Smed from Cincinnati, Ohio, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

United States Women’s National Soccer Team and Gotham FC defender Kelley O’Hara retires, striking all of her fans with a stupor of both grief and pride.

The Makings of a Legend’s Career

Born on August 4th, 1988, in Fayetteville, Georgia, Kelley O’Hara’s professional career started after her senior year of her collegiate soccer at Stanford University where she was drafted by FC Gold Pride in the 2009 Women’s Professional Soccer draft. O’Hara’s versatility on the field coupled with her athleticism made her the third overall pick in the drafts, similar to rising WNBA star Caitlin Clark who placed first in her drafts this past March 2024 for the WNBA. 

After winning two World Cups and multiple club championships over the years, it is easy to let O’Hara’s earlier victories get drowned out. Her first championship however was with FC Gold Pride in the 2009 season, and it was the turning point for this young soccer player. 

During O’Hara’s first year of professional soccer, while she was surrounded by those who superseded her in skill, experience, and knowledge of the league, she not only started that championship game, but ended up finishing it with being named a finalist for the Hermann Trophy Award (which is awarded to the top collegiate soccer player in the United States). O’Hara went on to earn several other individual honors, including being named a NSCAA All-American. This championship was the makings of a long and successful career followed by millions of followers.

In the same year that followed her first triumph and domination of the draft, O’Hara continued to make her mark. She joined the United States Women’s National Team in 2010, where she solidified her reputation as a top-tier defender and midfielder. 

During this time, she also developed her personality on the field. O’Hara’s performances on the international stage consistently earned her numerous accolades and the admiration of fans worldwide for her tough spirit and witty remarks on and off the field. O’Hara was famous for her saying, Defeat has always taught me a lot more than wins. When you lose, you gotta go back to the drawing board.” Her gameplay, which is also frequently praised, is almost as impressive as her attitude towards the game. 

Off the field, O’Hara has always been a vocal advocate for gender equality in sports. She has used her platform to promote inclusivity, inspiring the next generation of female athletes to pursue their dreams without any doubts.

Even when Kelley O’Hara was playing in a friendly match at Avaya Stadium in 2017, at San Jose, California, this photo displays the ferocity that she always brought to the field. (Photo Credit: Noah Salzman, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Most Consequential Moments in O’Hara’s Career

One of the defining moments of O’Hara’s career came in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. This is what set her with a reputation equivalent with stars such as Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and a select handful of others who will be remembered across generations. 

Even though these moments might be the biggest in her career, younger fans and admirers such as Darby Sale ’25 believe otherwise. “Her defining moment was for me the 2019 Women’s World Cup, because that is the first World Cup that I remember,” Sale said.

Sale continued to detail why O’Hara became one of her most prominent role models. “Her leadership recently, especially in the last World Cup, has inspired me the most as a player. Specifically, the way she was able to make a difference on her team without being a main starter,” Sale said.

Emmy Sale ’25 disagrees, however. Emmy commented, “When I think of the first moment that Kelley O’Hara became a big name in soccer, I think back to the 2015 World Cup final against Germany. The United States was up 1-0, and O’Hara scored their second goal. This defined their lead and made the game much harder for Germany to come back from, and the U.S. did end up winning. I think this is a defining moment in O’Hara’s career because she became more known among the soccer community, especially after not playing at the beginning of the World Cup.”

This photo was taken during the 2021 game that Kelley O’Hara and the U.S. Women’s National Team played against Paraguay. (Photo Credit: Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Emmy and Darby Sale are both on the Girls’ Varsity Soccer team at Bronx Science and play for Dusk, a club team outside of PSAL soccer. They both found O’Hara to be an enjoyable player to watch, and an inspiration. Overall, both Emmy and Darby are disappointed about her retirement. 

Darby commented, “I think that O’Hara’s retirement is bittersweet. I think it’s probably the right time to step away, but sad because she is a huge leader on and off the field. She feels like glue. But I’m excited to see what she does next!”

Emmy agreed, stating, “I think that O’Hara’s retirement is very sad, but it’s also very understandable. She has had a tremendous career, and is one of those players that people refer to as irreplaceable. She has had an amazing career on both the national and club scale, and now that she has been injured a few times recently, I can understand her wanting to retire while she is still able to play at a high level.”

Here, Kelley O’Hara (number 5) is attending to her teammate, Svava Rós Guðmundsdóttir (number 16), who is on the ground. This photo, taken in 2023, captured the ways in which O’Hara became a beloved leader for the U.S. Women’s National Team by the end of her career. (Photo Credit: Hameltion, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

One player whom O’Hara is often compared to is Philipp Lahm, the former German footballer also known for his versatility as a player. Like O’Hara, Lahm was capable of playing multiple positions, including full-back and midfield, and was renowned for his leadership qualities and ability to read the game. Both players have had significant impacts for their respective national teams and clubs, making them comparable in terms of their playing styles and contributions to their teams. 

While this compliment is well deserved, Kelley O’Hara has graduated from being compared to a great player to now being the player that people compare new prodigies to. A perfect example of this is Catarina Macario.

The Future of the U.S. Women’s National Team and Professional Women’s Soccer

Catarina Macario, a newer member of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, resembles O’Hara in not only her ability to play full back, midfield, and center striker, but her mentality and ferocity on the field as well.

After signing a three-year deal with Chelsea until the summer of 2026, switching from Olympique Lyonnais in 2023, Macario was awarded the notorious number 9 jersey, which got its name from the club’s legends Eniola Aluko and Bethany England who previously had it. 

Even though Macario might be compared to these players on her club team, she also has the honor of being compared to O’Hara when she plays on the Women’s National Team. 

Macario has her own style of playing, as do all players, and should be praised for her explosive and brave nature on the ball and her otherworldly first touch. It was that first touch that shocked the crowds in March of 2024, in a game at Leicester, when she scored within six minutes after coming back from an injury that had put her out of commission for 600 days. 

When O’Hara scored the goal against Germany in the World Cup, securing the very slim win for her team, it was an electric moment for her presumably, but also for the millions watching who felt that same sense of achievement. Macario inspired that same reaction in people, and it is the reason why she not only embodies O’Hara’s skill, but also her spirit for the game. 

Caroline Ferrell ’26, a sophomore at Bronx Science, also on the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team, commented on O’Hara’s contribution to women’s soccer. “Kelley O’Hara has made me feel prideful for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team and has made me very excited to watch women’s soccer.” It is for that sentiment, and the growing popularity of professional women’s soccer, that one can only hope that Macario and other great players continue O’Hara’s legacy of inspiring others with their talents and forging the path for women’s sports. 

“Kelley O’Hara has made me feel prideful for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team and has made me very excited to watch women’s soccer,” said Caroline Ferrell ’26, a sophomore at Bronx Science, and a member of the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team.

About the Contributor
Samantha Nair, Staff Reporter
Samantha Nair is a Staff Reporter for ‘The Science Survey’. She wants to write about consequential issues and stories covering the world, for the purpose of not only educating others on engrossing topics, but simultaneously learning more herself. Another motivation of Samantha'ss for journalistic writing is finding the seemingly trivial details of a story and reporting them to avoid misinformation, a problem she believes is potent in our current world. She also delights in capturing narratives all around Bronx Science through photography. She believes this allows memorable emotions and actions of students to not go unrecorded. Some of her commitments and interests include Girls' Varsity Soccer, Girls' Varsity Lacrosse, public forum debate, and the Manhattan Soccer Club. Samantha's hobbies aside from school entail reading, art, and skiing. She loves a multitude of subjects ranging from business, humanities, and STEM, so she is still contemplating a future career path. Samantha's aspirations, however, will never dissuade her love for writing and reporting.