The FIFA Women’s World Cup isn’t as ballyhooed as the men’s version but still the worldwide event is likely to bring fellow countrymen together. FIFA has been under hot water and investigation after ex-President Sepp Blatter was accused of bribery and attempting to fix matches in previous World Cups, but the face of corruption has recently stepped down after being re-elected on May 29.
The storyline now shifts to the actual action on the pitch and the redemption the USA seeks after falling to Japan in the 2011 World Cup Finals in penalty kicks. The United States enters as a heavy favorite among the qualifying teams along with Germany, Japan, Brazil and host Canada.
The growing amount of stars load up the experienced and deep American team. Veteran Abby Wambach heads up the scoring attack and is flanked by 25-year-old Alex Morgan. Sydney Leroux has 35 goals in 70 appearances while Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd facilitate from the middle of the field. And of course, in goal is Hope Solo, one of the most loved yet scrutinized players on the national team due to her recent off field issues.
Solo’s sullied image includes being arrested for two misdemeanor counts of assault, harassing the police, an abusive relationship with former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens which resulted in Solo being suspended from U.S. Soccer for 30 days and private nude images being leaked. The chaos surrounding Solo could pose a distraction for the U.S. but head coach Jillian Ellis insists otherwise.
Two Georgia natives have stayed out of the headlines and look to contribute to this year’s team. Morgan Brian and Kelley O’Hara don’t play the prominent roles of the aforementioned players, but both have the potential to be fixtures in the lineup for years to come.
Brian, a 22-year-old midfielder from St. Simons, is the youngest player on this year’s team. She starred at Frederica Academy where she won a state title and was twice named a Parade All-American and Gatorade Georgia State Player of the Year. While in college at the University of Virginia, Brian won the Hermann Trophy twice, signifying her as the best player in the nation. She became the fifth player to ever win the award two times during a career. Since playing at Virginia, the exciting midfielder has been selected to the Houston Dash of the NWSL. She has made 29 appearances with the USA senior club and has scored four goals.
Lauren Holiday, a teammate of Brian’s on the national team told The Washington Post’s Steven Goff just how special of a player Morgan is. “Morgan was not just a college player when she came into this team. Her confidence, her sophistication on the ball, it was beyond her years,” Holiday explained.
Defender Kelley O’Hara at age 26 has also gained praise during her 60 caps with the national team and has worked her way into the rotation. O’Hara grew up in Peachtree City and played at Starr’s Mill High School. Like Morgan Brian, O’Hara also captured a state title after scoring 20 goals and adding 16 assists in 2006. She too was named Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year and continued her career at Stanford University. She also was awarded the Hermann Trophy in 2009 and finished her Cardinal career with 57 goals and 32 assists. O’Hara currently teams up with the USWNT’s active leader in appearances, Christie Rampone, on defense for Sky Blue FC.
Speed and determination has helped the former forward transition into being one of the toughest defenders on the team. O’Hara was initially cut from the 2011 World Cup roster before being added on as a reserve and has used that as fuel to get better every day. She was a part of the 2012 Olympic team that beat Japan in the gold medal match, 2-1. Kelley was one of three players to play every single minute for the United States during the tournament and was a crucial part of the squad’s success.
Keep an eye on these Georgia born and bred players. Unsung heroes can be found anywhere on the big stage and there is no reason why one of these two Georgia peaches can’t come up big with the entire world watching.