Heather O’Reilly announces her retirement from international soccer
Heather O’Reilly, one of the most successful players in U.S. Women’s National Team history, has announced her retirement from international soccer.
O’Reilly, 31, will end a spectacular 15-year international career when she plays her final game in a U.S. uniform on Sept. 15 as the USA takes on Thailand in Columbus, Ohio (8 p.m. ET on ESPN2)
“Heather has been a vitally important part of our program for many years and has continued to set a standard for professionalism and work ethic,” said U.S. head coach Jill Ellis. “She’s been right in the thick of things for most of our big moments over the past 15 years and has always been the ultimate team player and a world-class person. She should be incredibly proud of the indelible impact she’s made on this team and on women’s soccer.”
O’Reilly began her career with the U.S. WNT as one of the youngest players to debut for the USA over the past 15 years, playing her first international match on the senior level at age 17 during the Algarve Cup against Sweden on March 1, 2002; she was a senior in high school. O’Reilly would go on to play for five different head coaches while with the U.S. National Team.
She currently has 230 caps, which places her seventh all-time in U.S. Women’s National Team history. Her 46 goals place her 12th on the USA’s all-time scoring list, and her 54 assists are good for sixth place on the all-time assist list. With one more assist in her final game, she would tie Julie Foudy for fifth all-time.
“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?”
O’Reilly was the second-youngest player to hit 200 caps for the USA (behind only Kristine Lilly) when she reached that milestone on March 12, 2014 at 29 years old, 2 months, 10 days. She has played 13,322 minutes in a U.S. uniform, good for 13th all-time.
Long known as one of the USA’s fittest players and fiercest competitions, O’Reilly became a fan favorite over the years for her competitive nature on the field and humorous personality off of it.
She finishes as one of just four three-time women’s soccer Olympic gold medalists and a 2015 Women’s World Cup champion. She was also a leader on the U.S. team that won the 2002 FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Cup, making her one of the few players in history to win an Olympics, a senior World Cup and a youth World Cup.
O’Reilly will continue to play professionally on the club level, where she also has found great success.
“I have been very lucky to have an amazing support system around me my entire U.S. Women’s National Team career,” said O’Reilly. “I want to thank my family and my husband Dave for being my biggest fans, and the amazing coaches who helped me not only get to this level, but instilled in me the qualities to help me stay here.
“I want to say a big thank you to all five of the coaching staffs that I have played under on the USWNT for believing in me and for giving me the opportunity to wear the crest for so long. And to my past and current USWNT teammates, 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. 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 retires having played in three Women’s World Cup tournaments (2007, 2011, 2015) and likely would have been on the USA’s 2003 Women’s World Cup Team as well were it not for a broken leg suffered against Ireland in June of that year. She played in three Olympic Games, winning three gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012), and accepted an alternate role at this summer’s Olympic Games, traveling with the U.S. team to Brazil, where she trained every day, displaying tremendous professionalism and support for her teammates during the tournament.
O’Reilly scored her third career goal on the play that broke her leg, but her fourth goal would be a memorable one as she bagged the game-winner in the semifinal match of the 2004 Olympics, scoring in overtime of the 2-1 victory against Germany. She was the youngest player on that Olympic Team and was named the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year in 2004.
In December of 2004 in the USA’s last game of the year, O’Reilly came into the match for Mia Hamm as Hamm left the field after playing her final game in a U.S. uniform, and O’Reilly would proudly wear the same number 9 Hamm had worn for the rest of her career.
As the second youngest player on the 2007 Women’s World Cup squad, she scored twice in the tournament, tallying the important equalizer against North Korea in a 2-2 draw in the first match and also scoring in the 4-1 third-place victory against Norway.
She also scored twice at the 2008 Olympics, finding the net in the final group match against New Zealand after just 40 seconds in what was at the time the quickest goal in Olympic history. She also scored in the 4-2 semifinal victory against Japan.
One of her greatest goals game in group play at the 2011 Women’s World Cup when she scored a spectacular strike from distance against Colombia in Sinsheim, Germany. It was a finalist for the FIFA Goal of the Year.
Of her 54 assists, one of the most important came on her cross to Alex Morgan in the 123rd minute of the 4-3 victory against Canada in the 2012 Olympics at Old Trafford in Manchester, England.
O’Reilly’s 46 goals came against 23 different countries – including three against the country of her ancestors, Ireland – and she had one career hat trick, coming against the Dominican Republic during 2012 Olympic qualifying. She scored goals in six different countries outside the United States.
Heather Ann O’Reilly, known as HAO to many fans and almost all of her teammates, grew up in East Brunswick, N.J., and at an early age showed the talent that would lead to an historic career. She was a high school All-American, a national high school player of the year and scored 143 goals as a prep.
At the age of 17, she helped lead the USA to the championship at the inaugural FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Cup in Canada, scoring four goals with seven assists in six games as the Americans defeated the hosts in sudden death overtime in front of almost 48,000 fans in Edmonton. She would visit that same stadium on the road to her final world title as the USA won the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada. Overall, she scored 18 goals in 18 U-19 internationals.
She would score her first WNT goal about a month after the U-19 World Cup title, and her first four years on the U.S. team would be spent mostly coming off the bench. O’Reilly would eventually start 150 of her 230 games to date, playing forward early in her career and flank midfielder in the later years. Her best scoring year came in 2008 when she had 10 goals and 10 assists, becoming one of just six players in U.S. history to hit double-figures in both categories in a calendar year (Mia Hamm did it five times and Carin Gabarra and Abby Wambach did it twice each).
O’Reilly began her professional club career with her home state Sky Blue FC in WPS, playing there from 2009-2011 and helping the team to the league title in 2009, scoring the game-winner in the championship game en route to being named the championship game MVP. She played with the Boston Breakers in the WPSL and NWSL from 2012-2014 before joining FC Kansas City for the 2015 season where she helped the club to the league title, getting the game-winning assist on Amy Rodriguez’ match-winner. The achievement landed her championships for club and country within a four-month span.
From 2001-2009, in only one year did she fail to win a championship, winning a New Jersey high school state title, a U-19 Women’s World Cup title, two NCAA titles, two Olympic titles and a WPS championship with Sky Blue FC.
O’Reilly had a spectacular college career as well, including a dream season as a senior when she led North Carolina to its 18th NCAA women’s championship with a 2-1 victory against top-ranked and previously unbeaten Notre Dame. The Tar Heels finished with 27 successive wins (27-1-0) after a season-opening loss. She scored in the semifinal victory against UCLA and in the national championship game, earning Offensive MVP honors. She also won an NCAA title as a freshman, helping UNC to an undefeated season, and scored 59 goals with 49 assists overall for the Tar Heels.
O’Reilly, who married former UNC lacrosse player Dave Werry in 2011, resides in Chapel Hill, N.C., where she graduated from UNC with a degree in Education in 2009.
Source courtesy of: U.S. Soccer
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