The 2015 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Saturday, June 6 in Canada. The United States team is one of a handful of favorites to win the tournament and they’ve got a great story. Despite decades of excellent play, the team has not won a World Cup championship since 1999. That’s a whole generation of dreams denied and all the reason anyone should need to root for the team this year. To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.
National team experience: 218 appearances, this will be her third World Cup, and she has 41 international goals.
What to expect from Heather O’Reilly: Goal scoring sometimes seems like a knack more than a skill. Or at least, having the knack for it is at least as important as having the skills. Heather O’Reilly has both. She’s confident with the ball, ready to take on player head to head, beat them with a deceptive dribble and blow by them with speed that even in her 13th year on the U.S. national team is still present. She’s got a good shot but it’s not her primary weapon. She’s the kind of scorer who always seems to be in place to catch a fortuitous bounce or a little pass back from a striker and put it into the net. With the extraordinary logjam of talent up front, O’Reilly has moved backwards to midfield where she sees periodic action as a substitute. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see her get into around half the games during this year’s World Cup, especially when the United States has the lead and her veteran presence will help close out a victory with no mistakes.
Video: When watching this highlight package, try to count the number of times O’Reilly scores just by being where the ball is going to go before it gets there.
Non-gendered personal interest item: In 2002, when O’Reilly was called up to the U.S. team for the first time, she was a 17-year-old high schooler. Unthinkable now, (there is only one college player on the current team) it was an extraordinary experience for O’Reilly. Read Graham Hayes’ profile of O’Reilly in ESPNW for more about her long career on the USWNT. Also, this is a direct quote from O’Reilly’s Wikipedia page: “In January 2013, she gave a speech to the students at South Lawrence East 5th Grade Academy. Afterwards, she proceeded to beat the entire student body in a footrace.” Ha!!