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North Carolina Courage

Heather O’Reilly brings a touch of England back to the NWSL

Heather O’Reilly wants you to know that the HAO game face has not changed following a stint in England. That doesn’t mean the 33-year-old did not return a changed player after spending more than a year playing for Arsenal in the FA WSL.

“When you get older it’s always about adding new layers to your game,” O’Reilly said last weekend after playing as a substitute in the North Carolina Courage’s 4-0 win over Sky Blue FC. “Some things that worked well when you were younger or a step faster or whatever, you have to get a little bit savvier or a little bit more cerebral with your movements.”

Almost everyone who has played abroad as well as in the United States has reported that the other side of the pond is less of a fast and physical game and more of a deliberate and tactical one. O’Reilly is no different. The player whose work rate was legendary in the U.S. national team for over a decade has now learned there can be value in reserving some energy.

“Especially in England I learned a little bit more about cadence and tempo in possession,” she said. “For instance, I don’t have to work so hard all the time. Just because I’m maybe not completely exhausted at the end of a game doesn’t mean I didn’t play a very good game. “I learned that in England. It’s really important to control the tempo and maybe lead yourself into possession and into space instead of just working so hard all the time. I think those nuanced movements will be helpful here.” …

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