Interview with US Women’s Soccer Star Heather O’Reilly

Watched by billions of crazy fans around the planet, the agony and the ecstasy of the biggest sports event in the world is has just finished, with Italy winning the World Cup in Germany. In a year’s time, the Women’s Soccer World Cup takes place in China, and Heather O’Reilly is hoping to be a major asset for the USA team. One of the rising stars of women’s soccer and already the proud owner of a 2004 Olympic gold medal, she recently spoke about her career and her Irish connections:

“My father is Irish. His grandparents were from Longford, and his mother – my grandmother – was from Cavan, so I am three generations along the line”.

Her Irish connections have not always bought her good luck though; during a game against Ireland in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2003 she suffered a broken fibula in her left leg. Just 74 seconds into the game she collided with the Irish goalkeeper, and this injury kept her out of the World Cup team: “though the goal I scored was sweet!” she added.

Despite her being named U.S. Soccer’s Young Female Athlete of the Year the next year, there was a worry that this injury was going to cut her career tragically short:

“I didn’t necessarily feel like my career was ever going to be over, but I was a bit over-dramatic about it. When first coming back I was limping and didn’t have my normal speed, and I thought that I was never going to be the player that I was. I didn’t recover quick enough to make the ’03 World Cup, and back then I that felt like it would be the end of the world. However, I had a wonderful few seasons of college soccer at UNC and won a gold medal at the Olympics, so it all worked out ok.”

She is currently studying Education at the University of North Carolina, and while it’s no surprise that she loves Carolina Blue and the Tar Heels, it was almost a fairytale when she scored her first international goal against Italy during the Nike U.S. Women’s Cup – which was being held in Cary, N.C.

O’Reilly was born and raised in East Brunswick, New Jersey, but she recently moved across the country to Southern California to prepare for the next stage of her career – the World Cup:

“We moved out here to L.A. in the beginning of April, and we will be training here until September. Because there is no professional league in the US, it is necessary that we have the training opportunities, and US Soccer has put together a six-month program for us to play together day in and day out. We will have some friendly matches throughout the summer, but mostly will just be training.”

Now O’Reilly is living here in L.A., she has some new goals besides scoring them:

“There are so many places I haven’t seen! First, I want to do a bit more Hollywood-like things. I want to be on a game show and to try to win lots of money! I also want to see more of the beautiful coast.”

As for her greatest moment, O’Reilly is hoping that it may change at the World Cup – as long as she makes the trip to China:

“My biggest sports thrill thus far was winning the gold medal at the Olympics. It was really cool that it was in Greece, the spot where the Olympics were born, and to be part of it in a small way was a cool feeling. However, the World Cup is the ultimate goal for any soccer player, and though ultimately the decision about the team’s personnel is up to the coach, I think if I keep working hard everyday at training and improving in my weak areas, I can put myself in a good position. I think I can really help this team.”

O’Reilly was the player who took the USA team into that Olympic Final, when she scored the vital Golden Goal in overtime against Germany in the semifinal. Germany got revenge of a kind recently though, when they took No1 spot from the USA in the official world rankings:

“Germany is a great side. Recently, we’ve tied them in the Algarve Cup and they won it a shootout. I think we had a lot of scoring chances, now it is our job to put them away. If we do that, I think we’re a tough side to beat.”

Her recent appearances for the USA in the Algarve Cup were her first since the accident, and running out on the pitch again was a momentous but nervous moment for O’Reilly – it was during the same competition that she earned her first national cap aged 17:

“I currently have 44 caps, and I hope that I will be part of this team for a long time – reaching 100 caps is an aspiration of mine. Long way to go though!”

Whatever happens, O’Reilly is sure that her number one fan – her white poodle, Sugar – will be watching:

“She hasn’t made the trip to L.A with me; she’s still at home. I’m looking at a picture of her now – she’s sitting next to a soccer ball!”

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