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Reach up! Brandi Chastain '91 holds a soccer camp for kids before playing in her tribute game. Photo by Samantha Juda '13 .
by Sam Scott 96 |
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."

Spring 2014

Table of contents


Radiant house

Building a house for the 2013 Solar Decathlon. That, and changing the world.

Américas cuisine

Telling a delicious tale of food and family with chef David Cordúa ’04.

Lessons from the field

Taut and tranquil moments in Afghanistan—an essay in words and images.

Mission Matters

Carried with compassion

The Dalai Lama’s first visit to Santa Clara.

Farther afield

Building safer houses in Ecuador. Research on capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica. Helping empower girls in The Gambia. And this is just the beginning for the Johnson Scholars Program.

What connects us

The annual State of the University address, including some fabulous news for the arts and humanities. And the announcement of Santa Clara 2020, a new vision for the University.