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Heather O’Reilly raring to go in first full season at Arsenal

Heather O’Reilly, with Arsenal coach Pedro Martinez Losa, is ready for the opening of FAWSL season

LONDON – As Arsenal get set to conquer the WSL winter season they will have a familiar face for U.S. Soccer fans. U.S. national team veteran, Heather O’Reilly enters her first full season with Arsenal, and she’s looking to make an impact in The Gunners lineup. Arsenal have an abundance of offensive scoring options, and it remains to be seen where O’Reilly will lineup.

Arsenal open the 2017/2018 campaign with Birmingham City Ladies visiting Borehamwood on Sunday, September 24. Left-Back certainly remains a possible landing spot for O’Reilly. Manager, Pedro Martinez Losa has utilized O’Reilly as a roving full-back in preseason, most noticeably vs Everton. It’s a position O’Reilly is open to learning.

“I think that if you would have told me ten years ago, that I would be playing left back for Arsenal Football Club, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. It’s nice that Pedro has confidence in me to play different roles. I think that it suits me in terms of my qualities, in terms of my engine, crossing, and my ability to join in the attack. It’s not too much different than what I’ve been doing before. I guess it’s a different look, and another layer to my game, and my approach as a footballer,” O’Reilly said.

Arsenal have the capability of competing with anyone, and going toe-to-toe on the score-sheet. The likes of Vivianne Miedema, Jodie Taylor, Daniëlle van de Donk, Kim Little, Jordan Nobbs, Dan Carter, and Beth Mead give Arsenal an immense amount of flexibility going forward. While defense presents a question mark, offense seems to be well sorted.

“I think that we’re in a great place,” O’Reilly admitted. “We have a great team in terms of a lot of options. A lot of different skill-sets, a lot of depth in a lot of positions. I think that all of that stuff is great.”

The 32 year-old, O’Reilly has 231(!!) caps with the Untied States and has more than proven her capabilities at the international level. If she is going to be playing at left back, it’s going to take an adjustment period, but you’d have to imagine that O’Reilly will ace it, in no time. Getting up the flank, contributing on offense, that’s O’Reilly’s bread, and butter.

“I love being an attacking player,” O’Reilly said. “I certainly feel more comfortable going forward. That being said, I’m up for a different challenge. The way that we want to play is very much possession oriented, and attacking football. As long as we have the ball, it’s a lot of fun going forward. It’s just another option, another thing in Arsenal’s arsenal.”

In the end, formation, tactics, and strategy is down to the gaffer. O’Reilly is happy to play where she is needed. Having played in the Spring Series earlier this year helped O’Reilly prepare for a full fixture season. She knows what to expect on and off the pitch. She’s familiar with the facilities, teammates, and football life in England. The WSL has less long ball, and more of an emphasis on controlling the match, and keeping the ball.

“Yeah, I think so,” O’Reilly said of there being less long ball. “It’s a very patient build up in terms of possession. Less transitional play, less box to box games. Sometimes I’m watching the NWSL from here, and the pace the players cover ground, is incredible, but it is a very transitional game. Here the possession is very valued. I feel like we are literally trying to paint the field with our possession, and really move the team, before we go for the final pass. I would say that generally it’s a much more patient build up over here in England.”

The former North Carolina Tar Heels sniper has found chemistry with England international, and Arsenal midfielder, Jordan Nobbs. The two feed off each other, and have a knack for finding one and other up the pitch. It can take time for that kind of compatability to form, but O’Reilly, and Nobbs are showing they can click together.

“Playing with somebody like Jordan Nobbs,” O’Reilly said. “I feel like we have a good relationship. We know what each other are looking for on the field. Those kinds of things take a little bit of fostering. I’m happy that I was here for the Spring Series.”

“We’re both probably as fit as each other,” revealed Nobbs. “We do like to run, and she’s an experienced player with a lot of talent, and a lot of knowledge. She’s definitely helping me become a better player. Hopefully we can work off each other a lot more in the future.”

While O’Reilly gets set to enjoy her first full season. There is still the uncertainty of whether or not she might make a return to the NWSL where she believes that FC Kansas City hold her rights. She’s open to returning to America, and not closing the door on the NWSL. At the minute, she’s all in on Arsenal, and ready to thrive in the WSL.

“I’m leaving all my options open for my footballing future,” O’Reilly said. “I’m completely enjoying this moment, and playing for this badge. I think it’s really special for me to be here, and play at this club. This is a unique time in my career where I’m able to experience something different. This is the first time I’ve ever played overseas. I’m having a lot of fun with it.”

Arsenal have always shown to be among the top teams in women’s football. The addition of Heather O’Reilly only adds to their depth, on and off the field. There is no reason why Arsenal shouldn’t at least contend for top spot, and a much coveted Champions League berth.


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