Jan. 15, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. - The only thing Kelley O'Hara liked better than being selected by the FC Gold Pride in the first round of the Women's Professional Soccer draft Friday was that her Stanford teammate, Ali Riley, will be coming with her.
O'Hara and Riley both went to the same team. O'Hara, a forward, was the No. 3 pick and Riley, a defender, went at No. 10, to the Bay Area-based side.
When O'Hara, who attended the draft in Philadelphia, reached Riley at Stanford, "We were both yelling and screaming and excited that we would get to play together," O'Hara said. "We'll get to carry on the Stanford tradition."
"Shrieking into the phone," is how Riley described it.
Just a few hours later, Riley took to the Stanford practice field with volunteer assistant coach Nicole Barnhart, another new FC Gold Pride teammate, for a workout. By that time, she'd already talked to O'Hara three times.
"I hoped that I would get picked here," said Riley, who made it a point to thank the NeSmith family, the team owners. "I had spoken a little bit to Albertin, but tried not to get caught up in all the speculation. I was hoping, but I didn't have any expectations."
The Stanford connections to FC Gold Pride are strong:
• Co-captain and defender Rachel Buehler and goalkeeper Barnhart were Stanford stars and currently play for the U.S. national team.
• Head coach Albertin Montoya was a volunteer assistant at Stanford in 2008.
• Goalkeeper coach Jay Cooney doubles in that role at Stanford, and just completed his seventh season with the Cardinal.
O'Hara knew she would go with the third pick. Montoya told her last weekend.
"That was where I wanted to go," she said. "I was definitely happy to stay in the Bay Area."
The Gold Pride plays a similar style to Stanford, using speed and possession to set the tempo and then strike quickly. O'Hara and Riley both are fast and don't expect to change their style of play.
Even against quicker and more physical defenders, O'Hara said she won't alter her aggressive style that earned her 26 goals this season and the Hermann Trophy as college soccer's top player.
"I'm going to continue to play the way I play," said O'Hara, who led the nation in goals and points (65) and shattered school season records for both.
Riley, an outside back who played with the green light to overlap as a winger, also expects to remain in that role, and continue to play on the left side.
"They were looking for an outside back and speed on the defensive line," said Riley, Stanford's fastest player.
Both players will prepare for the season by playing internationally. O'Hara headed directly to the U.S. national team camp on the day of Stanford's 1-0 NCAA College Cup final loss to North Carolina in College Station, Texas.
Over 10 days in Carson, Calif., O'Hara impressed coach Pia Sundhage enough to get another camp invitation. This 20-day, 26-player camp, which begins Sunday, will determine the 18-player squad for Portugal's Algarve Cup from Feb. 23-March 3. O'Hara is looking to earn her first full national-team cap.
Riley, an Olympic and World Cup veteran, will be training with the New Zealand national team in February.
Women's Professional Soccer will be entering its second season. The league was founded and continues to be led by Tonya Antonucci, who played at Stanford from 1986-89 and twice led the Cardinal in goals. Five Stanford alums - Barnhart, Buehler, Marisa Abegg, Allison Falk and Natalie Spilger - played during the league's inaugural season.
The Gold Pride went 4-10-6 during its first season and has since moved its home field from Santa Clara to renovated Pioneer Stadium at Cal State East Bay in Hayward.