Nicole Barnhart: A quiet legend for club and country

If you talk to a casual fan who only checks in on women’s soccer every now and then, the name Nicole Barnhart might not ring a bell. Despite this, Barnhart is one of the best goalkeeper to play the game of soccer. The 35-year-old has accomplished plenty in her career, even set records at Stanford, where most still hold today. Playing in the same cycle as Hope Solo isn’t ideal, but Barnhart still continues to shine in her own light today. At the end of May, Barnhart set a career record with her 32nd consecutive start for FC Kansas City in their match against the Washington Spirit. Just last weekend on June 3, she made her 300th career save in the middle of the Blues’ matchup against the North Carolina Courage.

Making waves from the start

The Pennsylvania native was making waves even in her hometown. In high school, she played for the boys’ team for all four years - both in field and on goal. As she went on to college, Barnhart’s college career was nothing short of impressive at Stanford University. Not only was she an All Pac-10 Conference player three years in a row, but she also recorded Stanford’s lowest goals-against average with 0.41. In addition, she set Stanford’s record for career-high shutouts, which Jane Campbell just tied last season.

Barnhart’s talent did not go unnoticed on the international level. In October of her senior year at Stanford, she made her debut for the US Women’s National Team against Mexico when she came on as a substitution for the last five minutes - as a forward. From there, she was named the third goalkeeper for the 2007 Women’s World Cup behind Briana Scurry and Hope Solo. In the following year she came up huge for the 2008 CONCACAF final, saving the last penalty to win the final. From there, Barnhart became a mainstay for the USWNT.

Barnhart comes up for a save in the 2012 Algarve Cup. | Source: Bongarts - Getty Images

She was on the 2008 Olympic roster, although she didn’t play as Hope Solo played all six matches. The goalkeeper did get her chance to shine in 2010, when Solo got her first shoulder surgery. Barnhart then started in 11 matches, allowing only five goals throughout the course of her starts. Two of these matches included the playoff match that secured a spot for the USWNT in the 2011 Women’s World Cup. The following year she helped the USWNT win the Algarve Cup and the Four Nations Tournament.

The goalkeeper was rostered for the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Olympics. Playing alongside Solo, Barnhart did not see any time is these tournaments, but she has still made quite the name of herself. She has a total of 53 appearances for her country.

Spectacular club records

On the club level, Nicole Barnhart has been nothing short of incredible. In 2010 she helped FC Gold Pride to the WPS title, earning eight shutouts which included the championship game. The same season she was named WPS Goalkeeper of the Year and a WPS All-Star. In that season, she recorded 74 saves and a 1.44 goals-against average for FC Gold Pride. The following year Barnhart signed with the Philadelphia Independence and made it all the way to the championship game.

Even now in the NWSL Barnhart has been nothing but solid for FC Kansas City. She’s been with the club since its start in 2013, and in that season she earned NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year while helping her club get to the inaugural playoffs.

Barnhart in the 2015 NWSL Championship. | Source: Steve Dykes - Getty Images

She also has won back-to-back NWSL Championships with the club in 2014 and 2015, making them the first NWSL club to do so. The Stanford product played every single match for Kansas City in 2016, recording a total of 78 saves.

At 35, Barnhart is still setting records for her club as a spectacular goalkeeper. The quiet-natured Pennsylvania native may not always have eyes on her, but she has truly accomplished so much in her career. One of the most solid goalkeepers to come through the game of soccer, it’s time people take a closer look at FC Kansas City’s last man in their defense.