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Heather O’Reilly announces retirement from USWNT

Heather O'Reilly will retire from the USWNT. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

Heather O’Reilly will retire from the USWNT. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

Heather O’Reilly announced her international retirement on Thursday. O’Reilly’s last international match will be Sept. 15 against Thailand in Columbus, Ohio. She will continue playing for FC Kansas City in the NWSL.

O’Reilly was an alternate for the Rio 2016 Olympics, at which the U.S. women’s national team bowed out in the quarterfinals for the first time ever at a major tournament, falling to Sweden in penalty kicks. She made her debut for the United States in 2002 as a 17-year-old and she would go on to tally 230 all-time appearances for her country — seventh all-time — and 46 goals to date. She is also sixth all-time with 54 assists for the United States.

“I have spent nearly half my life in a U.S. Soccer uniform, so making the decision to retire from international play was incredibly hard and emotional,” said O’Reilly. “But quite simply, after 230 caps, thousands of practices, many trips around the world, and having played in three World Cups, and three Olympics, it just feels like the right time. I’ve had an incredibly complete career playing for my country and it has been an absolute honor to represent the USWNT for the last 15 years. I’m leaving this team with a lot happiness in my heart and pride for what we’ve accomplished. I truly love this game and it will be in my life forever. Now, I’m looking forward to being a USWNT fan. American Outlaws, where do I sign up?”

A three-time Olympic gold-medalist and World Cup champion, O’Reilly is the last active international player U.S. player to have played with Mia Hamm’s generation of players alongside Christie Rampone, who unofficially said earlier this summer that she is done with international soccer. She helped Hamm & Co. win a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics when O’Reilly recovered from a broken fibula to make the roster at 19 years old. She scored the game-winning goal in the Olympic semifinal against Germany.

From there, O’Reilly’s career took off and she became a mainstay with the U.S. women’s national team, fitting perfectly into long-heralded values of work ethic and fitness. O’Reilly holds the record for most consecutive games played for the U.S. women’s national team with 74, a streak which spanned from August 12, 2007 to Jan. 21, 2011.

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One of O’Reilly’s most famous assists came in 2012 in another Olympic semifinal when she delivered a cross to the head of Alex Morgan, who nodded the ball over Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod in the 123rd minute for a 4-3 victory.

“I don’t think I will ever be able to sufficiently put into words what being a member of this team has meant to me,” O’Reilly said. “I grew up on this team. We have experienced joy and heartbreak together, and every emotion in between. We have grinded it out together so many days when no one was watching, and we have carried the heart of the nation when everyone was. Thank you, gals, for the amazing ride.”

O’Reilly still plans to play for FC Kansas City, the club for which she helped deliver a second straight NWSL Championship in 2015 — assisting Amy Rodriguez’s game-winning goal — after arriving in the offseason prior. She played 2013 and 2014 with the Boston Breakers.

Prior to NWSL, O’Reilly played three seasons for Sky Blue FC in her home state of New Jersey from 2009-2011. She scored the only goal in the 2009 WPS Championship as Sky Blue beat the LA Sol, 1-0 to complete an improbable playoff run.

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