Heather O'Reilly: 'It just feels like the right time'

Heather O'Reilly, arguably the most-decorated player in U.S. women's soccer history and a link for the generation of players who won Women's World Cups and 1999 and 2015, will end her 15-year international career on Sept. 15 when the USA takes on Thailand in Columbus, Ohio.

HAO Titles:
2002: USA (Under-19 Women's World Championship)
2003: Univ. of North Carolina (NCAA Division I)
2004: USA (Olympics)
2006: Univ. of North Carolina (NCAA Division I)
2008: USA (Olympics)
2011: Sky Blue FC (WPS)
2012: USA (Olympics)
2015: USA (Women's World Cup)
2015: FC Kansas City (NWSL)

O'Reilly, 31, made her debut on the senior level at age 17 in 2002 when she was a senior in high school and has played 230 games, ranking seventh all-time in U.S. history. Her 46 goals place her 12th on the USA's all-time scoring list; her 54 assists put her sixth in that category.

O'Reilly played on Olympic gold-medal teams in 2004, 2008 and 2012 and won the 2015 Women's World Cup, joining fellow New Jersey product Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx as the only players to win all four titles.

"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."

O'Reilly, who also starred when the USA win the inaugural Under-19 Women's World Championship in Canada, played at North Carolina, winning national titles in 2002 and 2006.

O'Reilly was a sophomore at UNC when she played for the USA, which won the 2004 Olympic gold medal with a 2-1 overtime win in Athens. In 2008, she started as the USA beat Brazil a second time in the final.

But she didn't play in the 2012 gold-medal game and was a little-used reserve at the 2015 Women's World Cup. With just 18 players on the 2016 Olympic roster, O'Reilly was an alternate.

"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."

Among her teammates in 2004 when fellow Tar Heels Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Cat Red dick and Lindsay Tarpley. When Hamm retired later at the end of 2004, O'Reilly replaced her in the farewell game and donned Ham's No. 9 jersey.

O'Reilly lives in Chapel Hill in the offseason but still plays for the NWSL's FC Kansas City, with which she won the 2015 NWSL title.

That championship makes her the only player to win titles in the Women's World Cup, Olympics, Under-20 Women's World Cup (former U-19 World Championship), WPS, NWSL and college.

"I’m not retiring from club level," O'Reilly said. "I love this game a lot. I said to [a reporter] the other day, there aren’t many places I’d rather be than on a soccer field. I find a lot of joy and still feel pretty fit and healthy. I’m going to focus on these last couple games of the season here with Kansas City and enjoy the international retirement. I’ll take some times before making any decisions from there."

4 comments about "Heather O'Reilly: 'It just feels like the right time'".
  1. John M Cote, September 2, 2016 at 4:21 a.m.

    O'Reilly has always been the true embodiment of a team player. Unassuming, always there for the team, deflecting any praise onto the team (like Mia Hamm before her). And one heck of a player to boot!

    All the best to HAO and best wishes for her continued success.

  2. Allan Lindh, September 2, 2016 at 12:05 p.m.

    And a living example of why a young person is far better off spending 4 years growing up on a college campus while playing soccer. It makes for a more balanced, complete human being. Remember that when you rant about how kids must sign pro contracts at 16 years if they are ever to amount to anything. Most such kids will never make a living wage in soccer, but will pay for their choice the rest of their lives. And Remember Title IX.

  3. Ric Fonseca replied, September 2, 2016 at 1:43 p.m.

    Well said and excellently described! Good luck to Ms. O'Reilly!!!

  4. Ric Fonseca replied, September 2, 2016 at 1:44 p.m.

    Why the note on Title IX?

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