O’Reilly reflects on USWNT career

Jeff Husted September 1, 2016 47
Heather O'Reilly announced her retirement from the USWNT on Thursday (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

Heather O’Reilly announced her retirement from the USWNT on Thursday (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

The U.S. Women’s National Team has been blessed with some of the best players in the world. Today, one of the greatest announced her retirement from the international stage. Heather O’Reilly made her senior team debut when she was 17 years old. Now at 31, she feels it is the right time to go from USWNT star to fan.

15 Years. 230 Caps. 133,322 minutes. 46 Goals. 54 Assists. Three Olympics. Three Gold Medals. Three World Cups. 2015 World Cup Champion. Undefeated all-time ‘Beep Test’ Champion.

Those numbers are incredible by any standard, but nearly an afterthought when thinking about HAO’s greatness. They are a byproduct of what happens when a player with talent commits to giving 100% every time she touches the field.

“She is a player that will give her all. She will run and cover every inch of the field by putting in her best effort for the team and doing what she does to help the team win. I think that sometimes goes unnoticed,” said former USWNT and current FC Kansas City teammate Nicole Barnhart.

Becky Sauerbrunn has competed with, and against, HAO at nearly every level of the game. “I can’t get rid of her, but I don’t want to,” joked the FCKC and USWNT captain. “…we’ve known each other since we were 16. We’ve been competitors in college, we’ve played together, we’ve been competitors professionally and played together professionally. It’s fun to have run the gamut with her, and I’m going to treasure these last few years playing professionally just because I am with her all the time now. I love the girl. She’s one of the closest friends I’ve ever had on the field and off the playing field.”

One of the things that fans seem to love about O’Reilly is her friendly and light attitude off the field, but her determination on the field. Fans have coined the phrase “HAO-Face” to describe the twisted expression so often found as she runs on the field.

Sauerbrunn says, “That’s what makes her HAO. She does not give up on a play ever in practice or a game. She will try to make every run and every tackle because she knows that it just takes one second to score a goal or have an assist.”

O’Reilly’s strengths were not lost on Vlatko Andonovski. FCKC’s head coach talked about the decision to bring her to Kansas City…a decision that was made mere hours after the team captured the 2014 NWSL Championship.

“…I still remember the day and the place. We were sitting in a Buffalo Wild Wings in Seattle talking to these people and I said, ‘That’s the person we need to win it again’…Psychologically, it’s hard to win and then even harder to win back-to-back. We needed the drive, the desire and someone to push us through. No one can do that better than HAO. That is the main reason why we brought her here, and she accomplished the mission 100%.”

Her final game in a U.S. Soccer uniform will be September 15th against Thailand, and she will also finish out the season for FC Kansas City. Asked why she isn’t walking away completely, her reply was light-hearted and to the point but delivered with the same intensity and resolve as if she was driving towards a game-winning goal.

“Quite simply, I love this game a lot. I love playing this sport…there aren’t many places I’d rather be than on a soccer field.”

Fans will remember her 2012 cross to Alex Morgan in the 2012 Olympics, or the game-winning goal against Germany in the 2004 Olympics. Some will even remember the amazing goal she scored in the pool play of the 2011 World Cup against Colombia that rocketed off her foot from 40 yards out and curled right over everyone to find the far upper corner of the net.

When asked about how she wants to be remembered though, her preferences resemble her playing style much more than her highlight reel.

“If I was remembered, I would want it to be for being a good teammate, working my ass off for my teams, being part of a lot of winning teams and doing things the right way. If I was able to be remembered for that, I would be very proud.”

Be proud HAO. You’ve earned it.

  • Wosofan

    “Fifteen effing years and it’s over!”. Clearly not HAO’s sentiment, as she was always a giver, and never thought the game of soccer owed her anything. Indeed, she has decided to keep playing pro soccer.

    • Michelle

      It’s one thing to see the writing on the wall and walk away voluntarily, as HAO is doing, and another to have it ripped away from you instantaneously. Come on.

      • guest

        hope solo was playing under a ussf zero tolerance policy. she was given another second chance and she blew it again. a person only get’s so many second chances. hope solo was never going to make it to 2019 world cup anyway. she can not stay out of trouble. her self-destruction won’t allow it. hope solo is good for at least one major screw up a year. so it’s better to cut ties now while there is still time to find replacements.

      • John

        Solo was given chance after chance and kept effing up. I’m sure after the NT van incident she was told in no uncertain terms that one more strike, no matter what, and she was out.

    • nice try

      Oh eff off.

  • dw

    Based on how she describes she would like to be remembered, she deserves to be very proud.

  • Reality

    Off topic but it deserves mention…”Barcelona to land in the United States to open a women football team…”


    • Steglitz49

      Fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

      Barca may also need to invest in their domestic ladies league in Spain overall, like Paulson does for the NWSL.

      • Reality

        Barcelona looks like they are entering the empire building stage.

        • Steglitz49

          I wonder how this will work. They will get 4 international slots to bring over some Spanish players, top pick in the draft to get either Buchanan or Jordan, a couple of allocated Canadians, maybe a Mexican or two for PR-purposes. Barca LFC will be on easy street.

          • Reality

            Given the hiatus now until WC2019, there should be great interest among the players in a venture like this. But it all depends on what form it will take and how quickly they get it up and running.

          • Steglitz49

            They would need a place to play, obviously. The NWSL would not be keen on 11 teams but if they can find one other expansion team they will have 12 teams. Alternatively, Barca could buy out another outfit. Sky Blue springs to mind if Bracas HQ will be NYC.

            Maybe Toyota, Honda, Mazda and Subaru can be persuaded to sponsor ladies teams!

          • Reality

            Do you think that SBFC would be any more willing to work with Barcelona than they were with Red Bull? Once again, I wonder what role the USSF plays in transactions of this nature.

          • Steglitz49

            Firstly, the Red Bull HQ in Austria were not interested in supporting a WoSo team. They support the male Salburg team in Austria.

            Red Bull supports some male team sports but no or hardly any women team. Red Bull sponsors far more men than women and the few women they sponsor are well established stars like Lindsey Vonn.

            Sky Blue owners have by and large looked after their ladies well. They play on a natural grass soccer specific pitch in a stadium that can seat 5,000. To be collaborating with such a marquee name as FC Barcelona might be a dream come true.

          • Reality

            The bottom line for SBFC is that the have a poor geographic location for their stadium that is not easily accessible for soccer fans in the NYC Metro area. We don’t know what kind of deal NY Red Bull was offering nor what restrictions were placed upon it by either SBFC nor Red Bull Austria. But if it involved changing the venue to Newark, I would have liked more details on that.

            I’m not sure what FC Barcelona could offer to SBFC if they chose to stay in Piscataway. Would the affiliation attract more fans? Perhaps…but I think that a NWSL team in NYC would work much better for soccer fans which is why I’m waiting to see what happens there.

          • Steglitz49

            A simple way forward for Barcelona is to rent space at Red Bulls’ stadium in Newark if they only want to run a ladies team.

            Barcelona could go the whole hog and buy-out Red Bull from the MLS and also start a ladies team. Barca has the money and Red Bull may well want to sell.

            Barcelona SB LFC will then get a soccer specific stadium in a (slightly) better location than Yurcak field. Whether any of the commentators on the EQ will bother to go along and watch a Barcelona LFC is another matter.

          • Reality

            Those are 2 interesting options. I continue to wonder where USSF will come down on any of this.

          • Steglitz49

            Barcelona will stop their mouths with gold. Regular visits to the Directors’ box at Nou Camp.

          • Reality

            An old adage…

          • Steglitz49

            If only Man City, Bayern Munich and PSG would follow suit and we would have a 14 team NWSL!

          • Reality

            Bayern Munich has also opened an NYC office but so far has been keeping a low profile. Perhaps increased competition among them will result in some action. The question is…will it concern WOSO?

          • Steglitz49

            Probably. Man City has a WoSo team in Australia so why not in America? BM and PSG have both put a lot of money into WoSo but PSG has little to show for it.

    • Breakers fan

      Thanks for this info. But I don’t get it — “a woman’s football team”. Great. But in a vacuum? I presume this must mean “a team in the NWSL” but it doesn’t say that in the article. Just trying to confirm/clarify.

      • Steglitz49

        It is one step up from an MLS-expansion team. Expansion by investment of one of the biggest club names in soccer. Beggars can’t be chosers.

        That is how I interpret it. Of course, it could be that it will be like Bayern Munich ladies who played a few practice games in Florida last year.

        • Breakers fan

          I have no idea what your first sentence means in relation to my question. The article says their office is in NYC , so does that mean anything? This is all just exceedingly vague to me.

          • Steglitz49

            Your point, that the article is not great on specifics and details, is well taken but I interpreted it as that Barca was opening an office, whatever that may mean, in NYC and they want to have ladies team playing under their name and colors in the US, which most likely is in the NWSL.

            The NWSL has nailed its colors to the mast of expanding through male clubs, Houston and Orlando so far to be specific. Here comes another male club and sets up a ladies team. What could be better for WoSo?

            Where will these Barca Ladies play? Who knows? Somewhere in the continental USA, presumably. Maybe the rich club will build them a stadium?

            Alternatively, as I hinted, they may just be bringing their ladies team and play a string of matches. Seems less likely though.

      • Reality

        I think I’ll set up a Google alert on this to keep tabs. It implies NWSL and the mention of as NYC office might mean another NYC Metro team. SBFC had their chance to go big time with Red Bull a few years ago but balked at the opportunity. I wonder if there are any talks going on with the USSF? It will be interesting to see how this develops insofar as Barcelona does have resources and ambition. I’m glad they are directing some of it toward women’s soccer here in the States.

    • Lorehead

      Their website has a news story about the New York office, but does not mention a new women’s team. But perhaps one is in the works. The Equalizer has previously said that Man City starting one through NYCFC is a matter of when, not if.

      • mockmook

        It would be tremendous if the NWSL didn’t depend on the USSF for its survival. If this comes to fruition, perhaps that means higher salaries as well.

      • Reality

        I saw that article that also. They are clearly setting up a well connected network but no clues as yet as to how they will use it. NYC is obviously a market of great potential for soccer. If Barcelona is going to compete with Manchester City for a new women’s team in NYC, I say, go for it! It would certainly create some excitement for WOSO and I think that the fan support is here given the population and diversity of this market. I’m waiting to hear a few peeps from USSF.

        • Lorehead

          Their U.S. office is in New York; I have no idea if they’re planning to start an affiliate team there. I would say the logical place for them to do it would be southern California.

          • Reality

            Southern California has always appeared to be the obvious venue for another NWSL team. The LA Galaxy has not exactly been enthusiastic in pursuing this again. Perhaps FC Barcelona knows something or someone that might facilitate a successful venture there.

          • Lorehead

            It’s the second-biggest market (with two other big European clubs already sinking their hooks into the biggest), with more elite girls’ soccer than anywhere else in the country, and a larger share of the population that speaks Spanish.

          • Reality

            I agree there is much potential there. We circle back to where the USSF comes down on these ventures. They could certainly help but they could also not be helpful.

          • Reality

            This ongoing development might also have an effect upon the establishment of a NWSL team in southern Californis…


          • Breakers fan

            I’m still waiting for and wanting a city to have the chutzpah to use “ST” instead of “FC”. We are in America after all; we don’t have to feel ashamed of our words.

            Here, from your linked article, it would be “LAST” — Los Angeles Soccer Team, though admittedly the acronym isn’t the most auspicious one to begin a franchise with…

          • Reality

            lol, indeed, that would be a poor acronym!

          • Steglitz49

            FC is quite international. It is FC Barcelona and FC Bayern Munich, FC Rosengård, Linköpings FC, Kopparberg Göteborg FC.

            Some Swedish Damallsvenskan use other letters such as Piteå IF, Djurgårdens IF DF, DFF is used by KIF-Örebro, Kristianstad DFF and Eskilstuna United, Vittsjö GIK, while Umeå is Umeå IK FF, while AIK is just AIK. The same does for Germany and France.

            Anyway it ought to be LASC and strictly speaking either LAWSC or LALSC.

          • Breakers fan

            “Team” is what’s been used here for years and besides I get to make the rules on what I want in fantasyland. Ain’t gonna happen, but if it does I’ll be happy.

            Thanks for those other European names. If you had to translate all those unfamiliar letters, “IF” and “IF DF” etc. into English what would they say?

          • Steglitz49

            The club puts a team on the field. Hence “Club”.

            AIK = the Public Athletics Club. It is never defined by a place name. Thus it is Skellefteå AIK but never Stockholm AIK. It is one of those honors, like Bayer Leverkusen and PSV Eindhoven have.

            DF = Ladies football. DFF = Ladies Football Federation. IK FF is more complicated. I think it is Athletics Club Football Federation. GIK is either Gymnastics and Athletics Club or Golf and Athletics Club.

            Please note that Swedes use K and C interchangeably for club but it is always C for Cup.

          • Breakers fan

            Thanks for those translations. What is the word starting with “D” that equates to “ladies”?

            I still say “team”. Everyone knows more people work for them than the players. I like the emphasis on the players, more so than the office people. They’re the true raison d’etre for all concerned.

          • Steglitz49

            “d” as in “dam”, which translated is “lady”. Traditionally Sweden follows the British tradition of Ladies. Thus it is Damfotboll and Damallsvenskan och Damkronorna etc.

            You can also refer to the ladies as “girls” but it is not traditional to use the Swedish word for women.

            In her interview after her fabulous relay in Sotchi, Charlotte Kalla in the heat of the moment variously used Swedish words that in American English would be “girls”, “chicks” and even “broads” to explain why she could not let her team mates down. I doubt that an American woman would get away with that.

          • Steglitz49

            Why is South Cal more obvious than a second team in either Texas or Florida or a new team in either KY or TN?

          • Reality

            Isn’t it obvious? Your favorite player comes from this soccer paradise.:)

  • Gary Diver

    Off-Topic Alert: Future of NWSL

    “Did Women’s Soccer Lose a Boost After the USA’s Early Olympics Exit?” – Caitlin Murray


    Hearing Jeff Plush’s take on the future of NWSL is always entertaining. For example: “There’s nothing more important to any league than to have relevancy in every market.” I wonder if a staff member came up with that perspective. (Doesn’t USSF loan NWSL some staff personnel?)

    • Lorehead

      It’s not good news that the USWNT bombed in Rio, or that their most famous player was such a bad sport about it. But I’m optimistic about the fact that attendances haven’t gone back down to where they were before the World Cup last year. We might be looking at sustainable support here, not a boom-and-bust cycle driven by outside events.

      • Gary Diver

        I hope you are right. As we were discussing yesterday, the salaries of NWSL players need to reflect what is expected of them. The pay ratio of USWNT player/non-USWNT player = 7 is obscene.

        It is interesting that based on just how well players play in NWSL, few USWNT players would make the Best XI and Second Best XI teams. That should raise eyebrows.