HAO signs with Arsenal; NWSL future in flux

Dan Lauletta January 18, 2017 39
New Arsenal Ladies signing Heather O'Reilly with coach Pedro Martinez Losa.

New Arsenal Ladies signing Heather O’Reilly with coach Pedro Martinez Losa.

Arsenal Ladies officially announced Heather O’Reilly on Wednesday and her future in NWSL is very much up in the air. The recently retired U.S. star was originally thought to be heading to the FAWSL on a short-term move but Arsenal now hold her contract and the 32-year old said she intends to put her all into the new venture. Her first match as a Gunner is expected to be Kelly Smith’s farewell match on February 19.

“For now, I want to commit myself fully to this new environment,” O’Reilly said in an FC Kansas City release. “This is a personal and professional opportunity that I could not pass up. I have always dreamed of playing in Europe, and Arsenal is a club that has a tradition of excellence that I think is really special.”

In a story about the signing, ESPNW’s Graham Hays stated the contract is for 18 months. For the last four years, O’Reilly was allocated to NWSL by U.S. Soccer. That arrangement ended with her retirement and FC Kansas City maintained her rights. However she never signed a contract there, allowing her to move to England.

{ON THE MOVE: Alex Morgan to Lyon | Crystal Dunn to Chelsea}

“HAO is one of the most incredible players that I’ve been around. Losing her at the beginning of the season won’t be easy, but I think at this point in her career it is the best thing for her,” FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. Those comments appear to leave the door open for O’Reilly to play for the club at some point in 2017.

“I will have conversations about my potential future in the NWSL when those conversations need to happen,” O’Reilly’s statement said. “Good luck to FCKC as they begin their campaign to win another championship.”

O’Reilly joins Alex Morgan (Lyon) and Crystal Dunn (Chelsea) as prominent NWSL players heading to Europe. All three have taken different tones upon announcing their moves. Morgan expressed a full commitment to Orlando and is due back in June. Dunn was specific about not playing in NWSL this season. O’Reilly has left the door open.

Arsenal are currently out of season as FAWSL transitions back to a fall-spring schedule. To bridge the gap the clubs will play an abbreviated Spring schedule plus the FA Cup. Arsenal Ladies are FA Cup holders. The club last won FAWSL in 2012.

Arsenal manager Pedro Martinez Losa, once a Western New York Flash assistant said: “She is a world class player and one of the most respected players in the US.”

  • Steglitz49

    Well done, HAO! Enjoy London. Go for broke.Win that FA Cup!

    (NB — Please don’t tire of London because then you are tired of life, as the saying goes.)

  • Steglitz49

    Arsenal needs some new blood because about 3 months ago they lost their Spanish triumvirate. Briefly, international striker Natalia and midfielders Marta Corredera and Vicky Losada all left. All three helped Arsenal Ladies lift the Women’s FA Cup last year and helped win the Continental Cup in 2015.

    Atletico Madrid signed versatile winger Corredera. Ex-Barcelona players Corredera and Losada, both 25, joined Arsenal in 2015 while Natalia had played for Bristol Academy till December 2014. Losada’s next club became Barcelona, while Natalia I don’t know.

    • Alex25

      Their Spanish triumvirate had become surplus to requirements. Natalia was in and out last year, and would have played even less had Jodie Taylor managed to be fit to play more often. Marta Corredera hardly played at all. Vicky Losada was really good but would have lost her starting place following the arrival of Kim Little. I like all three of them but realistically Arsenal need better now that Chelsea and Manchester City have raised the game.

      • Steglitz49

        Thanks for the clarification. Left by mutual consent, you might say.

  • FawcettFan14

    HAO’s workrate and consistency is hard to match. But her absence to FCKC will be mitigated by A-Rod and Leroux’s return (either can play on the wing) or by one of the new arrivals like Ribeiro or Payne. FCKC is suddenly a team with depth again.

    They still need a center mid to step up and replicate (as best she can) the Holiday AM role. Maybe Shaffer can do it, but she’s a rookie and was more of a nifty linkup player than a focal point at UVA. Maybe Tymrak can do it, but those trials haven’t been successful before. Maybe Laddish can play there but she is more of a #8. Bowen is a utility player not a pure playmaker. Or maybe Vlatko, realizing nobody can truly replace Holiday, switches from the 4-2-3-1 to a system less reliant on a central #10.

    I’m happy HAO has this window of her career to gain new experiences. She no longer has WNT obligations to worry about, yet still has the skill and pace to be a useful asset. Signing her isn’t just a charity case.

    • mockmook

      “mitigated by A-Rod and Leroux’s return (either can play on the wing)”

      A-Rod is awful on the wings

      Maybe Leroux can play there (on the Right wing), but I have only seen her on the Left wing.

      Groom is the likely replacement.

      I agree that their most un-addressed need is the CAM situation — but Shaffer may solve that. Other commenters have claimed that Ribeiro can be the CAM as well.

  • FawcettFan14

    “Kelly Smith’s farewell match.” So this is really it then. One of the best true footballers I’ve ever seen. She understood the subtleties of the game like few others and made it look effortless. Too bad about the nagging injuries over the years.

    We’ve lost some top creative players to retirement the last few years: Sawa and Holiday in 2015, Necib and Formiga in 2016, soon to be Kelly Smith in 2017. I’m grateful to have seen them all play.

    • Steglitz49

      Think of the new ones who have stepped up and announced themselves.

    • Alex25

      Yep. Kelly is done for good now, but fully intends on a coaching career, so maybe we’ll see more of her in that capacity. Phenomenal player, the inspiration for a generation of English women’s footballers. Quality even in her last season when her legs were long gone, vital in the FA Cup win.

      Glad that HAO will be there for her former teammates farewell, wonder who else is showing up for it.

      • Steglitz49

        Have they announced who will be in the All Stars yet?

  • Steglitz49

    This one is specially for Gary Driver.

    According to Marco van Basten, FIFA is about to experiment. Instead of penalties AET they want to test shootouts as in hockey and instead of Yellow Cards they want to test Sinbins.

    “There are different considerations and variants on the table,” said van Basten, “that we try and test over the next few years.” The shootouts known from hockey, he said, are “spectacular for the spectators and interesting for the player”.

    “Each team has five attempts: the referee whistles, then the player runs from 25 meters to the goalkeeper,” says van Basten: “Within eight seconds, the action must be completed. It’s over. ”

    The attacking player has more time and more opportunities than the penalty shoot-out. “He can dribble, shoot, wait for the goalkeeper to react – this is more like a typical playing situation,” said van Basten. He did not comment further on the idea of sendings-off.

    • Steglitz49

      Van Basten also wants to get rid of the off-side rule and he wants to forbid players other than the captains from speaking to the refs and touch judges to stop the current harassing of officials.

      • Santana

        He and his FIFA should rather forbid themselves

        • Steglitz49

          van Basten is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time. Not quite in Cruyffs exclusive class but certainly in the top tier. He played as a striker, which may have influenced his thinking. For example, he was fouled a lot.

      • guest

        the barcelona players are going to be crying about that too.

    • AlexH

      Shootouts are stupid. They tried it during the first year or so of MLS and it was a complete joke. If you must get rid of PK’ do it this way. 1) A single spot kick for all the marbles. 2) The home team declares how far the ball will be from goal. 3) The visitors decide whether they want to take the shot or attempt to save the shot. Perfectly fair, exciting with lots of room for second guessing.

      • AlexH

        I am, however, not against testing new things. In our rec league we have a 3 card system, blue+ 2 in the bin, yellow + 4 in the bin and red. I think it is a good system and probably deserves a test.

        • Steglitz49

          Please write to FIFA and describe it. They may latch on to it.

      • mockmook

        I’d still do 5 rounds — one kick is just too random to decide pivotal matches.

      • mockmook

        What sort of success rate did the shooters have?

        Was there one frequent mode of attack that the shooters used?

        • Som Termanni

          Chip shots, long-range power shots, and redirections near charging keepers seemed to work best back when MLS did 35-yard/5-second shootouts. Low driving shots from mid-range got saved pretty often. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRITqS6WEn0

          A few players would try to get clever and pop the ball up, but the results were inconsistent. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LXiRCCB68E

          MLS ditched it because it led to injuries and fans eventually hated it so much that they started walking out before they were resolved. (MLS also did it for all draws, not just elimination matches.) It was replaced by a 10-minute golden goal extra period, then eventually the international standard IFAB extra period/12-yard penalty shootout.

          • Steglitz49

            Thank you.

            FIFA used the Golden Goal for a dozen years. Oliver Bierhoff scored the first one in a major international competition and Carli Lloyd (may have) scored the last one.

          • mockmook


    • Som Termanni

      “Orange card” sinbins would be in addition to, but not replacing, yellow cards. He also wants four quarters, and to eliminate extra periods. https://apnews.com/258e5f505eb849d2989ef9bc47404610

      • Steglitz49

        The 4 quarters must be pressure from the networks. They tried hard in 1994 for the WC but that time FIFA stood firm.

    • mockmook

      The “Shootout” is half way to the system that I proposed.

    • guest

      fifa rules are written in stone. the euro game has already been perfected.

      • Steglitz49

        The off-side rule was changed about 30 years ago and last year they introduced an extra substitute during extra time, which benefitted the US who could replace Pinoe. They also introduced drinks breaks in 2014.

    • Gary Diver

      Guess what! Just a few days ago I was thinking soccer should replace “static penalty kicks” with dynamic shootouts. (There was a recent hockey shootout that made me think about it.) I didn’t post because I figured people were tired of my complaints/dislike of the current penalty shootout format.

      Notes: 1. Referees tend to ignore the FIFA rule restricting GKs to stay on their goal line. Going to shootouts, eliminates this “rule that is only sometimes a rule”. (Otherwise major tournaments should use video replay and give immediate yellow cards to GKs who leave their line early. That would quickly stop the rule violation.)

      2. I agree with the observation that “he can dribble, shoot, wait for the goalkeeper to react – this is more like a typical playing situation.”

      I also like the concept of sin bin, since referees are too reluctant to give red due to the dire consequences. Consider the penalties of Julie Johnston in WC15 QF and Kadeisha Buchanan in OG16 QF. Both players should have been sent off the field for at least 10 minutes. (Or maybe FIFA needs to increase the situations for red cards. In recent major tournaments there has been too many red-card situation total ignored by the referees. These “ignored penalties” unfairly tilt the matches and encourage flagrant dirty play.)

      As I have stated before, different options should be discussed and experimented with to replace the static penalty shootout format. I repeat myself but, the major shortcomings of penalty kicks are (1) soccer is a team game, while penalty kicks is an individual skills competition, and (2) a large fraction of penalty kick shootouts are not won by the winning team, but are lost by the losing team. Sweden didn’t “win” the OG16 QF shootout, USWNT badly “choked” and lost it. Jill Ellis’ decision to have Alex Morgan, a poor PKer, kick first was disastrous and Morgan kicked exactly the same poor kick she unsuccessfully kicked against KC about one year earlier. (Rule 1 for penalty kick shootouts: pick your best PKer for positions 1 and 5. And ignore rule 1 at your peril.) The winner of a major tournament should be based on more than a single (often mental) blunder. As much as possible, it should be based on your positive play not the negative play by your opponent.

      • Steglitz49

        The issue, as I see it from this discussion thread, is that many of van Basten’s and his committee´s ideas are nothing new under the sun. Indeed, they seem to have been tried before and found wanting. Thus, the proposals seem a bit odd, badly researched and poorly thought through.

        He uses handball as an example of what he wants to avoid — but in handball there is no off-side.

        The 4 periods has been mooted before, at least running up to WC-94. With the drinks breaks during WC-14, OG-16 and the U17 and U20 WCs this year, the principle of some sort of interruption during the halves has been sneaked in. Maybe it will be 4 x 25′ with two 3′ breaks and the current one?

        In the final analysis, the progress will be determined by what suits the men’s game. Maybe the time has come for the ladies to bite the bullet on some issues, that would help the ladies game?

        • Gary Diver

          As usual, you’ve provided good food for thought. My bottom line is that since international North American WoSo has only two tournaments of any value in each four-year cycle, it would be an improvement if a dynamic more-game play alternative to the static penalty shootouts could be developed. It may not be easy and it may takes years to come up with, but the effort to find a way to end (at least knock-out phase) matches based on positive play (as to opposed to negative play of opponents) should be a high priority of FIFA.

          Nothing is written in stone. (Apparently the old FIFA rule for GKs during penalty shootouts was that they were to remain still until the kicker “put the ball in action”. Obviously too more referees ignored that rule, thus the current rule which is also ignored too often.)

          If no better alternative to penalty PKs can be found, fine so be it, but first there should be a serious attempt to find an alternative. (NHL and Olympics replacement of shootouts in knockout matches with 4 on 4 play is only a recent development.)

          If people want to be daring and “think outside the box”, how about experimenting with:
          1. a shootout penalty kick net that is about 75% the size of the regular net. (The success rate of soccer PKs is around 75%, while the success rate of hockey PSs is around 33%. The high success rate of PK makes the outcome of penalty shootouts often a single mistake/blunder.)

          2. Have two 15-minute overtime periods playing half-field with 6 on 6 (instead of 10 on 10).

          P.S. I am certainly not the only soccer fan who does not like penalty shootouts. On December 11, 2016, Cathal Kelly wrote in following in The Globe and Mail:

          “Someone once asked French international soccer player Christian Karembeu if penalty kicks to decide elimination games are fair.

          “It is loading a bullet into the chamber of a gun and asking everyone to pull the trigger. Someone will get the bullet, you know that. And it will reduce them to nothing,” he said. “Fair? Fairness is not even an issue.”

          Karembeu spat that out right after his team had won. There is no more unfair way to lose in all of sport. That’s what it makes it so compelling and necessary.

          Maxime Bossis, a defender who missed the penalty that cost France its chance at the 1982 World Cup, was shattered thereafter. He played for another decade and never again took a PK.

          “A football match should be decided by an action of play,” Bossis’s teammate, Michel Platini, fumed.

          “Not some contrived process whose end result is to mark a fine player such as Bossis, [Franco] Baresi or [Roberto] Baggio for the rest of his career.”

          Baggio may be the most awful example. At one point, the Italian was considered the best player in the world. Then he planted the last shot of the 1994 World Cup a good 10 feet over the bar.

          When you hear his name now, that’s all you remember – five terrible seconds out of 500 remarkable professional games.”

          • Steglitz49

            Rome was not built in one day.

            I don’t know if either Aya Miyama or Lisa Dahlkvist have missed a penalty but they for sure score theirs when the chips are down. The sort-of Torgny Mogren or Charlotte Kalla of PKs.

          • Gary Diver

            To a large degree it must be psychological. If I was Jill Ellis, I would think twice about using either Alex Morgan or Christen Press for PKs. Once bit, twice shy.

          • Steglitz49


          • Steglitz49

            I think Miyama is an expert at selling a dummy. The goalie goes one way and Miyama calmly almost rolls the ball the other way with what looks like yards to spare.

            Lisa Dahlkvist hits the ball hard at the most difficult height and place for the goalie. She seems to vary her shot according to the goalie.

            Saki Kumagai for Japan and Lyon is another secure taker as she showed in the WC-11 final and again in the 2016 Champions League final. (Saki played for Frankfurt before Lyon, including in the 2012 Champions league final against Lyon in front of 50,000 in Munich.)

  • Steglitz49

    If there is a repeat of last season’s FA women’s Cup final then HAO and Crystal will step out on the hallowed grass of Wembley to play against each other!

    That would be soemthing for US WoSo fans: a trip to London for Saturday May 13th. The tickets are already on sale and quite cheap at £15 for adults while kids go free.


  • Tom F

    either England or France are stealing some of the NWSL best & recent college grads. Is this a downward spiral for the NWSL?

    • Steglitz49

      Money maketh lady?

      It is a free world and you sell yourself to the highest bidder.

      Too many signs that the chances of being in the WC-19 squad is next to zero for those not already annointed.

      As for HAO, once you have been chucked on the rubbish tip as so much dung, like a fruit sucked dry, you might as well jump into bed with someone who appreciates you, not least when the money is good and the location excellent.

    • Guest