Kelley O’Hara or Yael Averbuch, Yael Averbuch or Kelley O’Hara, or…?

Lindsay Tarpley is set to miss the World Cup after tearing the ACL in her right knee in Saturday’s friendly match against Japan. Injuries at crucial times always seem cruel. Injuries to veterans who successfully rebounded from a series of similar injuries to return to tip-top form seems downright unfair. But alas, these things happen. The USWNT is simply the latest team to fall victim to the injury curse that has already claimed World Cup bound players including the likes of Canada’s Josee Belanger and Stephanie Labbe, Australia’s Kate Gill, and possibly Germany’s Dzsenifer Morazsan.

There really is no bona fide replacement for Tarpley in the current USWNT player pool. Next to Abby Wambach, Tarpley had the most career goals in the World Cup roster with 32. Her brief appearance against Japan proved that she still has plenty of game left. However, Pia Sundhage won’t have her services at her disposal anymore, which paves the way for another player to fill the void.

Sundhage has until approximately June 13 to make her final decision on a replacement. The two most obvious option are Kelley O’Hara and Yael Averbuch; two midfielders who narrowly missed out on the World Cup squad. Judging by’s terrific photos of the USWNT’s training session, neither player has been called up to train with the team ahead of its friendly against Japan in Cary on Wednesday. Not yet, at least. (Sinead Farrelly has been called up, however, which is immensely intriguing in it of itself. Other then Whitney Engen, the Independence rookie seems to be the only new face not included in the original World Cup roster.) Regardless, Sundhage might have already have Tarpley’s replacement in mind and perhaps that player has already been notified. Or maybe she doesn’t, and will plan to assess O’Hara and Averbuch over the next few weeks before making a decision. Or maybe she’ll fool everyone and call up, say, Tina DiMartino. Or heck, Sinead Farrelly.  

Anyway, for the sake of this (potentially) straw man argument, here’s a case for and against the call-ups of both Kelley O’Hara and Yael Averbuch.


Kelley O’Hara


Like-for-like. The most obvious one, no doubt, and the factor that works in O’Hara’s favor the most. KO was one of the most productive wingers in WPS last year. She needed no time fitting in to FC Gold Pride’s star-studded attack, recording six goals and four assists over 18 total games. O’Hara could be a serviceable, quick, creative, tenacious option when the USWNT is in need of some fresh legs off the bench.

One for the future. If called up, O’Hara will be the second youngest player in the squad behind Alex Morgan. One of the biggest gripes amongst USWNT fans about the World Cup roster was the lack of youth. O’Hara’s call-up will most certainly help to correct that. O’Hara is primed to be a prominent figure in the USWNT for years to come. Of note, Tony DiCicco seemed particularly perturbed by O’Hara’s snub, as per the Boston Breakers’ World Cup roster press release. In it, DiCicco’s very first quote didn’t address the call-ups of Lauren Cheney, Amy LePeilbet, Rachel Buehler and Stephanie Cox. Rather, it was about O’Hara’s non call-up. “I am very proud of our national Team players, and that includes Kelley O’Hara, even though she did not get the call-up this time,” he said, “Kelley is a young star with her best soccer and a wonderful international career ahead of her.” Perhaps not that far ahead, as it turns out.



Inury concern. O’Hara has been nursing an Achilles injury as of late, which forced her to miss the Breakers’ match against the Flash this past weekend. Official word came in last night, and DiCicco says O’Hara is expected to play this week. O’Hara says her Achilles feels “very good”. So maybe it’s not so serious after all. 

Relatively inexperienced. Despite having plenty of experience at youth level, KO is still a new arrival to the senior USWNT scene. In all, she has a total of five caps, 158 minutes, and zero goals. She’s made two brief appearances in 2011, one of which came in the Four Nations tournament and the other in the Algarve Cup. Will Sundhage roll the dice on a player who perhaps isn’t fully integrated in the USWNT set-up?


Yael Averbuch


Holding midfielder. If Sundhage is serious about employing a holding midfielder and Shannon Boxx continues to look out of sorts at the position, Averbuch could stand at the ready. Her involvement will add some variability to Sundhage’s options in midfield. If the team needs some clean-up work done in midfield late in games, Averbuch could be called upon to keep things tight and secure. It’s really all up to Sundhage and the formation she wishes to utilize. 

One for the future. Barring any surprise call-ups of Flash teammate Becky Edwards, the 24 year-old could be the most obvious candidate to step in and fill Shannon Boxx’s boots. Although Averbuch has been making a steady stream of USWNT appearances for an entire World Cup cycle, she’s still a young player who will look to play a large part in the complexion of the team moving forward.

Experienced and dedicated. Averbuch earned her first cap at the age of 20 back in January of 2007. Since then, the former Tar Heel has collected 16 total caps, 10 of which came in 2010. Averbuch is also a solid option in dead ball situations. Her first ever goal came off a free kick against Costa Rica in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying this past October. The New Jersey native has been in the USWNT’s books for years, so shouldn’t have to worry about a prolonged adjustment period. Her decision to forego club play in order to train with the USWNT in West Palm Beach also shows her desire and dedication to the cause. A call-up would be a nice, if bittersweet, reward.



Holding midfielder. Again, it all comes down to Sundhage’s preference as to whether she’d like to take two defensively-minded midfielders or several out-an-out wide attackers. Averbuch has spent time out wide (notably in the USWNT’s friendly against Mexico in March of 2010) but the position didn’t seem to best suit Averbuch’s strengths. Her complete abandonment at the Algarve Cup could also be telling.


And just for fun…Sinead Farrelly:


A true attacking central midfielder: Carli Lloyd’s exact function is getting more and more difficult to peg as Abby Wambach continues to emerge as a deep-lying playmaker who is most dangerous in the hole behind the lone striker. Sinead Farrelly entered WPS after a highly impressive tenure at UVA. Chris Henderson called her a “rampaging” midfielder after she was drafted second overall, and she’s confirmed the tag in the handful of games she’s played in for the Independence. Philadelphia head coach Paul Riley said Farrelly was one of the most natural midfielders he had ever coached before she had even made her pro debut. Farrelly appears utterly confident and strong on the ball, is an accomplished distributor, and isn’t afraid to rip a shot from distance.



Inexperienced: Farrelly has yet to earn a USWNT cap or even get called up to a game day roster. The 21 year-old made it to her first senior camp when Sundhage invited upwards of 30 players to the first USWNT’s first training stint in Florida two months ago. She’s had a modest career with the youth national teams, although she did tally two assists in the U-23s tournament in La Manga, Spain in early March.

She’s an attacking midfielder. Carli Lloyd is never going to get displaced and Lori Lindsey is almost certainly the second option at central midfield. That really leaves no place for Farrelly in this squad, unless she can slot in at outside mid. Perhaps she’s just auditioning to be one of the nine reserves?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by Jenna Pel.

15 thoughts on “Kelley O’Hara or Yael Averbuch, Yael Averbuch or Kelley O’Hara, or…?

  1. Lina

    I dunno I am just a soccer fan. From an emotional standpoint I’ld say Averbuch because I am a SkyBlue fan. Also tactically because it would free up Boxx to have a more offensive presence and she is good in the mix during corner kicks and she threads through some nice passes to forwards also. smile.

      1. MW

        Why not? I still don’t understand why Chalupny isn’t being considered. She’s started at outside mid for the US in the past, and also would solve the team’s
        worries at left back. Is this health related?

        1. Jenna Pel Post author

          Chalupny is the perfect candidate. However, she hasn’t been cleared by USSF doctors for concussion-related injuries for what seems like ages. Hopefully they can show some mercy. These are her prime years right now. It’ll be a shame if she continues to be ruled out.

          1. cow pasture alum

            Isn’t that doctor (as in singular)? From what I recall of previous coverage of this story, USSF has relied pretty heavily on a single consultant, whereas the Beat obtained several opinions before clearing her to play.

    1. kool-aide

      Knife to the heart. Chalu indeed. Dang brain injuries.

      Chalu can boss a midfield like nobody’s business. I would instantly upgrade USWNT odds to make the final to even if Chalu was starting in midfield. I really miss seeing her in the kit.

  2. Lauren

    Didn’t know that Farrelly had been brought up, so thanks for that bit of info Jenna.

    I’ll agree with Chalupny though that’s not going to happen because US Soccer seems dead set on ever allowing her to play again.

    O’Hara or Averbuch do seem like fairly obvious options. A friend of mine mentioned last night that the versatility of Whitney Engen could be used to Pia’s advantage too – Engen was a midfielder prior to coming into UNC and changed to forward upon realizing that they had too many midfielders. Likely won’t happen but just tossing that one out there.

  3. kool-aide

    Farrelly can, imo, play the midfield & forward combo that Tarpley played — not at Tarp’s level (I’m a massive Tarpley fan) — at least I can see how her skill set could slot her there. Obviously I have no idea whether she can make the leap up in speed of play/etc so quickly.

    imo right now Farrelly isn’t quite strong enough to play central at the international level. But she’s got technical skills & I think she’s done well so far in WPS. And I think she’s got the frame to build on the strength — unlike, say, Woznuk at 21-22.

  4. Luke

    The way the USWNT medical staff are conducting their business regarding Lori Chalupny is extremely frustrating. She is the ideal candidate to replace Tarpley, and would be (or should be) an instant starter, has experience, is in her prime years, and is playing 90 minutes every week for the Beat. If she decided to retire altogether, or if there was a wide consensus that she shouldn’t play, that would be one thing. But multiple doctors have cleared her to play in WPS; its just the U.S. staff that is being stubborn. I understand that head injuries are complex, but at the same time I feel like diagnosing concussions should be fairly consistent across the board, and not up to the whim of a single individual.

    Its frustrating for the fans that quality players like Tarp and Chalupny are unavailable, while so many underperformers continue to get the majority of minutes.

  5. Sonia

    looks like it’s neither, Whitney Engen and midfielder Sinead Farrelly were called for the Wednesday game.

    1. Jenna Pel Post author

      Not sure if the decision to call up Farrelly was made before Tarpley’s injury. She played the full first half for Philadelphia in their game against Atlanta on Sunday so it’s hard to say. Either way, it’s fantastic that Farrelly is getting a look at, but you have to imagine Sundhage will go for O’Hara or maybe Averbuch. The central midfield still needs some work, but the wide positions are more pressing at the moment.
      Engen was called up in light of Heather Mitts’ hamstring injury. These recent call-ups probably have little bearing on deciding Tarpley’s replacement, to be honest.

    1. cow pasture alum

      Actually, Alan Mayer of the late, lamented NASL pioneered that look decades before Cech.


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