The Rio Olympics are only two months away, and the USWNT is preparing by playing friendlies against Japan and South Africa. The team is currently in a camp in which coach, Jill Ellis, invited 25 players, including FC Kansas City’s Heather O’Reilly and Becky Sauerbrunn. Sauerbrunn played every minute of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and was named co-captain of the team this year. Therefore, she is a shoo-in for the Olympic roster. Right now O’Reilly is on the bubble, meaning she could or could not make the Olympics roster. Here is why she should make the Olympic team.
Ellis will have a hard time cutting the roster down to 18, compared to the 23 woman roster from the World Cup. The team has greatly changed over the past year, experiencing four retirements, two pregnancies, and multiple injuries. This is why Heather O’Reilly needs to be on the Olympic team.
The USWNT lost longtime leaders, Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx, Lauren Holiday, and Lori Chalupny to retirement. While Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo bring a veteran presence, O’Reilly has the most appearances for the USWNT out of everyone currently in the training camp.
With 229 caps for the USWNT, and appearances in three Olympic Games and three World Cups, O’Reilly has the experience to lead the USWNT to another gold medal this summer. O’Reilly has been a member of the USWNT since she was in high school, helping them to three Olympic gold medals in Athens, Beijing, and London.
O’Reilly is possibly the most fit member of the USWNT, breaking the all-time team record for the BEEP test this year. O’Reilly has said time and time again that she believes in leading by example, which is why she pushes herself so hard. Even at age 31, she is still breaking fitness records and showing the new team members that success is a result of hard work. Fellow teammates value HAO for her work ethic and constant drive to improve on and off the field.
Besides proving she can play for 90 or 120 minutes, O’Reilly also has unmatched speed, which is hinted at by one of her nicknames, “White Lightning.” HAO is also famous for scoring over 45 goals, like her amazing strike against Colombia in the 2011 FIFA Woman’s World Cup. Additionally she is known for her amazing crosses from the flank and huge assists.
Pia Sundhage was a huge supporter of O’Reilly when she coached the team in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. In fact, O’Reilly was a fixture in the staring lineup under Sundhage’s rule. When Sundhage left to coach in her home country, Sweden, O’Reilly’s minutes were decreased. She barely played in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, shocking analysts and fans alike. Jill Ellis even left her off the Olympic Qualifying roster in January.
O’Reilly should not be on the bubble. With Rampone and Rapinoe recovering from injury, Rodriguez and Leroux out due to pregnancy, and the retirement of four veteran players, O’Reilly is needed now more than ever. She has proved time after time that she deserves a chance at her fourth gold medal.
Not only does she perform on the field, but she also brings a good attitude, work ethic, and lightheartedness to all aspects of her life. She is one of the most respected players in the game, and that is why Heather O’Reilly deserves to be on the USWNT 2016 Rio Olympic Roster, when they attempt to win a World Cup and gold medal back-to-back for the first time in history.