Born: January 2, 1985
Town: New Brunswick, New Jersey
Heather Ann O’Reilly was born January 2, 1985 in East Brunswick . She was the last of four children—and the only girl—born to Andrew and Carol O’Reilly. Andrew was a track All-American as a college student in the 1970s. Heather was a standout in youth soccer and basketball as a girl, and was one of the top athletes at St. Barthlolmew’s.
Heather enrolled at East Brunswick High School in 1999 and played four years of varsity soccer and three years of basketball for the Bears. The girls soccer program was one of the best in the nation. During the 1980s and 1990s, it was a rare thing for girls team to not win a conference championship. In fact, the Bears had won 19 straight when Heather joined the team as a freshman.
Playing primarily as a midfielder, Heather scored 143 goals in four years and was named the national Player of the Year as a senior in 2002. As a junior the year before, she had led East Brunswick to the 2001 state championship. Heather also appeared as a member of the US national team during her junior year. Her first game came against Sweden in March of 2002. Later that year, she helped the Under–19 team win the world champioship.
Heather was a National Honor Society member and the top recruiting target in the country, so she had her pick of colleges. She chose North Carolina, joining a great program coached by Anson Dorrance. In 2003, during her freshman year, the Tar Heels went 27–0 and won the national championship. The team was led by Cat Reddick, but it was Heather who was named the top offensive player in the NCAA Tournament.
That summer, Heather joined the New Jersey Wildcats of the USL’s W-League. She played for the Wildcats for two seasons, and helped them win the W-League championship in 2005. Also in the summer of 2004, Heather played for the US Olympic team in Athens. At 19 she was Team USA’s youngest player. She scored a goal against Germany in the semifinals to help the Americans reach the gold medal final, where they beat Brazil.
UNC went 43–2–3 during Heather’s sophomore and junior years. She was named the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2005. In 2006, she led the Tar Heels to a 27–1–0 record and the ACC championship. UNC went on to win the national title and Heather was named the outstanding offensive player in the tournament for the second time in her career. In 97 college games, Heather accounted for 108 goals—49 by assist and 59 scored herself. ESPN named her the 2006 Player of the Year.
In 2007, Heather donned the USA uniform during the Women’s World Cup. She scored a pair of dramatic goals during the competition, but the Americans had to settle for bronze. Even so, Sports Illustrated nominated her as a finalist for Sportsman of the Year. In 2008, Heather led Team USA to Olympic gold again. She scored against New Zealand and Japan, and played well in the 1–0 upset of Brazil in the final.
Heather continued to compete in the W-League, playing for Sky Blue FC in Pisctaway for three years before joining the Boston Breakers in 2012. The Breakers joined the new National Women’s Soccer League after the WPS folded. Heather continued her fine play for Team USA at the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Olympics. In January of 2012, she scored her first hat trick against the Dominican Republic in an Olympic qualifier. During the Olympics, Heather made the key play in the semifinals against Canada, putting a perfect corss on the head of Alex Morgan, who scored the goal that sent Team USA to the final against Japan. The Americans went on to beat Japan 2–1 to win gold. By the end of 2012, Heather had made 179 international appearances, and scored 36 goals. During that time she set a team record by appearing in 74 consecutive matches.
Heather’s fans expected her to compete in the 2016 Olympics. However, despite have the most caps on Team USA, she was left off the roster. The women went down to one of their worst defeats ever, falling to Sweden in the round of 8. Heather decided it was time to go, and announced that she would retire from the national team. She played her final international match against Thailand that September, setting up the game’s first goal and scoring the third in a 9–0 victory.
In 2017, Heather signed to play with Arsenal LFC (Ladies Football Club) in the English Women’s Super League.