2015 Womens World Cup Teammates Never Forget Their Roots
Click For Story
Heather O'Reilly has a team named after her at Players Development Academy
PDA O’Reilly was in the midst of an ECNL match against the Colorado Rush at the Players Development Academy over Memorial Day weekend. One of the nation’s elite teams in the U-16 age group, O’Reilly was focused on the task of enhancing their placement in the region with a positive result.
“One by one while the game was going on, the kids were looking and saying, ‘who is that at the end of the bench’,” said Tom Anderson, head coach of O’Reilly and President of PDA.
It was Heather O’Reilly and Tobin Heath.
O’Reilly and Heath have several things in common.
The are both members of the current United States Women’s National Team, preparing for the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-finals Tuesday versus Germany.
They helped lead the University of North Carolina to multiple national championships.
They are both Jersey girls.
And together, O’Reilly and Heath value their experience and development at one of the premier clubs in the country, PDA. On an open weekend in preparation for the World Cup, they opted to return and celebrate their experience with a club that has built tradition in a minimal period of time.
“They came earlier than expected so that they could sit on the bench with (PDA) O’Reilly,” said Director of Coaching, Michael O’Neill. “Here were two players going to the World Cup. They always come back and spend time with the kids.”
“The kids love it,” said Anderson whose assistant, Larry Hart, named the team after Heather. “It means so much to the players. They’ll just show up on training nights and are willing to jump in for a kick-around.”
Heath used to nutmeg her mom in the kitchen
Anderson first spotted Heath during a U9 tryout at the Somerset Hills Soccer club in Heath’s hometown, Basking Ridge. The essence of Heath immediately stood out and remains prevalent in her effectiveness at the international level.
“She was always interested in beating people off the dribble,” said Anderson, who founded PDA in 2000. “When she was at home, she would dribble through the kitchen and nutmeg her mom or a chair.”
Heath, who plays professionally with the Portland Thorns of the NWSL, gained world-wide attention in a friendly against Mexico on May 17 at the Stub Hub Center in Los Angeles. Her move, the elasticico against defender Kenti Robles, set up Abby Wambach’s 182nd career goal and went viral on social media.
It was a move perfected by the Brazilian, Ronaldinho – and now, Heath.
“She was one of the girls who really liked to watch the professional games on TV,” said Anderson. “She would come to practice and try the moves.”
It was the late 90’s in East Brunswick and there was a buzz in town about a girl who ran faster than the boys and scored goals in bunches.
Heather O’Reilly would ultimately lead EB High School to a Group IV State Championship, earning National Gatorade Player of the Year honors while assisting North Carolina to a pair of NCAA Championships, named the Most Valuable Player at the ’06 Final.
“Heather is someone who always worked on her game,” said O’Neill who spent many hours helping O’Reilly perfect her attacking skills. “There’s a difference between being a player and a pro. Heather put the time in.”
And O’Reilly’s dedication to club was never more apparent than in the early spring of 2002.
The U.S. Women’s National Team was competing in the Algarve Cup and then-coach April Heinrichs had selected a 17-year old senior in high school for the roster for the Portugal event – Heather O’Reilly.
After the final match, O’Reilly took the earliest flight available and landed at Newark airport on a Friday morning. Next, she hopped in a car for the six hour drive to Richmond, Virginia, in time to meet her PDA club team for an 8am match in the annual Jefferson Cup.
“That’s all about her character,” said O’Neill. “She had a number of people come up to her who had seen her 36 hours earlier on TV. They couldn’t believe that she was there. Heather realizes what the PDA has done to help her prepare to play for our country.”
“They are still tied to the club and they still want to come back,” said Anderson. “Nothing gives me greater joy than to watch Heather and Tobin play as young women and to make our club and country proud.”
-Heath was a freshman and O’Reilly a senior on the 2006 NCAA Championship side, UNC. Heath also won in ’08 and ’09. O’Reilly garnered an additional title in ’03.
-O’Reilly joined UNC alums Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm and Heinrichs when her #20 jersey was retired.
-O’Reilly was the MVP of the 2009 Women’s Professional Soccer Championship match for Sky Blue FC while Heath was named MVP after scoring the game winning goal when the Portland won the inaugural NWSL title.
-O’Reilly has won three Gold Medals (’04, ’08, ’12) while Heath has won a pair (’08, ’12)
Article by : Glenn Crooks