Born: January 9, 1965
Town: East Orange
Carin Leslie Jennings was born January 9, 1965 in East Orange. Her family moved across the country to Rancho Palos Verdes, a toney suburb south of Los Angeles. Women’s soccer was a fringe sport when Carin began playing in youth leagues in the early 1970s and she was largely self-taught. She combined speed, coordination and the ability to seemingly take two steps for every one by the players marking her to become a prolific goal scorer.
Carin enrolled a Palos Verdes High in 1980 and began crushing records as a freshman. She was the nation’s leading scorer all four years for the Sea Kings , earning All-America honors each year from 1980 to 1983 and being named California MVP as a sophomore, junior and senior. Carin scored 228 goals in her prep career. She continued building her reputation as an unstoppable forward at UC Santa Barbara. As a freshman in 1984, she set an NCAA record with 34 goals and 3.64 points per game. She graduated with all-time Division-I records with 102 goals and 60 assists.
Carin joined Team USA’s senior squad in 1987 and was part of a potent scoring trio that included forwards Michelle Akers and April Heinrichs. She was named US Soccer Athlete of the Year that season. Carin’s teammates, stunned by her unusual gait, nicknamed her Gumby. Pele said he saw a bit of himself in her dribbling style. In 1991, during the first Women’s World Cup, Team USA’s front line was dubbed the Triple-Edged Sword. The team won the tournament and Carin was awarded the Golden Ball. Her sensational three-goal performance against Germany in the semifinals still ranks among the greatest games in the history of he sport. She was named US Soccer Athlete of the Year for the second time in 1992. Carin played five more years for the women’s team, and also began plotting out her coaching career. She was a key contributor to the Olympic gold medal in 1996. She retired from the national team after the Olympics.
Carin started in all but 20 of her 117 international appearances, scoring 53 goals—third-most in US history at the time.
In 1992, Carin married Jim Gabarra, a high-scoring star in the Major Indoor Soccer League who had played 14 matches for Team USA during the 1980s. Jim coached indoor soccer until 1994, when Carin was hired to coach the women’s soccer team at the US Naval Academy. Jim volunteered as her assistant and together they transformed the program into a respectable Division-I competitor. After coaching the US women’s team on an indoor tour, Jim began coaching in the WUSA in its first season in 2001. Carin has stayed on as Navy’s coach—celebrating her 16th season in 2019. Their daughter, Talia, became one of the top young players in the country and played her freshman year at Central Florida in 2019.
In 2000, Carin was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.