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'It's about being ready for June 11' - USWNT right back O'Hara not yet fully fit after ankle setback

8:47 AM MYT 11/05/2019
Kelley O'Hara USWNT
The defender has made the U.S. World Cup squad, but will likely be brought along slowly in the team's send-off series

U.S. women’s national team defender Kelley O’Hara admitted she is not yet at 100 percent in her ongoing recovery from an ankle injury, saying her main focus is being ready for the World Cup.

O’Hara has been named to the team’s roster for the tournament in France, but the USWNT’s presumed starting right back is still fighting her way back to full fitness after a difficult recovery from an operation.

The 30-year-old underwent ankle surgery back in October and did not play for the U.S. again until February. After a setback, O’Hara missed both of the USWNT’s April friendlies, raising concerns about her status for the World Cup, which begins for the U.S. on June 11 against Thailand.

“Ever since I had the little hiccup with my ankle earlier this year it’s been about being ready for June 11 and that I can go starting then through the World Cup and be 100 percent,” O’Hara said on Friday.

After missing out on the games against Australia and Belgium last month, O’Hara made her return to the field for the NWSL’s Utah Royals, playing a total of 62 minutes in two appearances late last month.

It’ll probably be more of the same for O’Hara with the USWNT this month, with head coach Jill Ellis likely to be extra cautious with a player who is vital for the team’s chances in France.

“It’ll be working back in and I’m still working up to 90 minutes,” O’Hara said. “But it was good to get some minutes with Utah, get that under my belt.”

The USWNT begins its three-match send-off series on Sunday against South Africa at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, before heading to St. Louis to face New Zealand on Thursday and closing out their pre-World Cup schedule against Mexico on May 26 at Red Bull Arena.

Fans should only expect to see O’Hara in cameo appearances, if at all. If everything goes according to plan, that will change when the real games begin next month.

“I’m excited for Sunday and the last two send-off games in the U.S. and then it’ll be full-go when we’re in France,” O’Hara said.