Soccer legend Brandi Chastain '91 says farewell to the pros … and comes back to SCU.
It's been a dozen years since Brandi Chastain '91 blasted the U.S. women's soccer team into international headlines with the winning penalty kick of the 1999 World Cup. People still come up to her almost daily to recall the goal—and the celebration.
Chastain's shirtless moment of "insanity," plastered on magazines around the globe, is one of the most iconic moments in American sports history, one she's grateful people still remember. She knows too well what it was like for female soccer stars to get almost no attention.
When Chastain and teammates won the inaugural Women's World Cup in China in 1991, there were probably 50 U.S. fans in the stands cheering for them, she says. Times have changed. But it's not hard to imagine Chastain, even at age 42, playing to lift the Cup yet again. The mother of a 4-year-old looks lithe enough to lace up her boots with the best of them. But time stops for no woman, especially one with ACL reconstructions on both knees, and this fall, Chastain celebrated the official end of her career in top-flight soccer in the place that has so much do with her success.
On Oct. 2, 2010, Chastain invited some famous faces for a celebrity game at Buck Shaw Stadium to raise money for her ReachUp! Foundation, which funds self-esteem programs for girls. Guests included former Team USA standouts Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and Aly Wagner '02, as well as stars from other fields like San Francisco '49ers great Brent Jones '85 and baseball star Nomar Garciaparra.
Chastain thanked the crowd with tears streaking her face. But her retirement is a boon to SCU's women soccer, where she's long had a presence: She's now a volunteer assistant coach under the program's leader (and her husband), Jerry Smith.
Coming back to Santa Clara closes more than one circle. As a hyper young girl growing up in San Jose in the 1970s, Chastain fell further in love with the sport while attending SCU soccer camps where she was one of a handful of girls surrounded by hundreds of boys. Dave Chaplik, then SCU men's coach, pushed her just the same, she says.
Santa Clara revived her career after she transferred at the end of two years at UC Berkeley. Until coming to SCU, she'd succeeded in soccer on instincts, talent, and work ethic, she says, but Smith was key in teaching her to approach the game tactically and analytically. And Buck Shaw Stadium is where she plied her trade as a member of F.C. Gold Pride during the inaugural season of the Women's Professional Soccer League in 2009.
Helping the Broncos win a national title would fill one of the few blanks on her soccer résumé. She won two World Cups and two Olympic gold medals, and she was the national player of the year in college. But when she was with the Broncos, the team fell just short of nabbing an NCAA championship.
"There's always something you can strive for," she says. "I don't care who you are, you're constantly looking to be a better player."