U.S. WNT forward Heather O'Reilly looks back on capturing the 2005 W-League title.
Aug. 26, 2005
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Many of the U.S. Women’s National Team players plied their trade in the USL W-League this summer, but none more successfully than forward Heather O’Reilly. At just 20-years-old and already with two world titles on her soccer resume (a 2004 Olympic gold medal and a U-19 World Championship in 2002), O’Reilly’s run of success in the W-League this summer showed that her game is continuing to improve as she heads into her junior season at the University of North Carolina. In the W-League championship game, she earned a penalty kick and scored the clinching goal to help her home state New Jersey Wildcats to a 3-0 win over the Ottawa Fury on August 7. O’Reilly scored eight goals in 10 games (missing quite a few due to national team duty) as the Wildcats rolled up a 15-1-0 record. Of course, O’Reilly didn’t do it all by herself as a star-studded Wildcats team featured numerous Canadian and U.S. internationals, including forward Christie Welsh, midfielder Lindsay Tarpley and defender Cat Reddick, who was named the W-League Defender of the Year. The Wildcats also had the services of English internationals Rachel Yankey and Rachel Unitt for the stretch run of the season and the playoffs.
After Unitt scored the first goal in the 14th minute of the title game, the match stayed tight until the 63rd when O’Reilly took over. She uncorked a Ronaldo-esque solo dribbling run in the left side of the penalty box, blowing by defender Jenine Stangier and was bearing down on goal before being chopped down on the end line by Marie-Eve Nault. U.S. U-21 international Kacey White stepped up and buried the penalty kick in the left corner to make it 2-0. White, who had a goal and an assist in the 2-1 semifinal victory over Vancouver Whitecaps, was named the MVP of the W-League Championship. Welsh had the other goal in the semifinal. O’Reilly put the game away in the 70th minute with a great individual effort. She raced at Stangier to block an attempted clearance, then ran down the deflection, beautifully bringing the ball to the ground with her chest inside the penalty area while beating two Canadian defenders to the ball. She then powered a half volley into the net an instant before she was up-ended by a crashing defender.
In honor of her big-time performance in the championship game, O’Reilly put together a special feature for Center Circle: Heather O’Reilly’s Top-10 Fun Things About Winning the W-League Championship.
10. “Beating Canadians”
9. “Winning a championship in my home state”
8. “Hearing the home crowd cheer after I scored my goal because I didn’t actually see the ball go in the net as I was flipped up in the air and landed on my head”
7. “Actually getting to know some Canadians and finding out that they are not so bad after all, and in fact, pretty cool girls”
6. “Hanging out with my new English mates, Rachel and Rachel”
5. “Adopting Lindsay Tarpley into the O’Reilly family in East Brunswick, N.J.”
4. “Beating Canadians”
3. “Trying to convert Southern Belle Cat Reddick to be a Northern Yankee
(Note: Didn’t work)”
2. “Seeing the enjoyment of all the Wildcat coaches and staff who put so much time and effort into the season”
1. “Winning any championship is always fun!”