US SoccerUS Soccer

w/ Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O'Reilly

Heather O’Reilly and Lindsay Tarpley will be forever linked in U.S. Soccer lore.  Not only were they two of the stars on the USA’s 2002 Under-19 World Championship Team, which Tarpley captained, but they were the youngest players on the 2004 Olympic Team and both scored huge goals in the tournament, O’Reilly in the semifinal and Tarpley in the gold medal game.

They were also teammates on the UNC Women’s Soccer Team that went undefeated at 27-0-0 and won the national championship in 2003, making them the only two players in the history of women’s soccer to win a FIFA U-19 World Championship, an NCAA title and an Olympic gold medal in the span of just two years.

While their ascension to soccer stardom has been remarkably similar, there are some striking differences in both personality and playing style.  The soft-spoken Midwestern girl Tarpley hails from Kalamazoo, Mich., and brings a sublime playing style and tremendous feel for the game while the -- yes, we’ll say it -- loud O’Reilly hails from East Brunswick, N.J., and brings some East Coast brashness to a game built around blazing speed and boundless energy.

Amazingly, Center Circle was able to get the two busy college students on their cell phones at the same time while they were leaving their apartments for a pre-game meal on Thursday, Oct. 7, before the Tar Heels faced Miami in Chapel Hill to conduct the interview for the first edition of a new twist on Center Circle's normal "Queries & Anecdotes" that we're calling "She Said, She Said."  Even though Tarpley has been hobbled by a broken fibula suffered several weeks ago against Virginia Tech, she was still in good spirits to chat with O’Reilly and Center Circle.

CC: “Did you ever dream of making the Olympic Team at such a young age?
O’Reilly: “Go ahead, Tarpy.”
Tarpley: “I think I always dreamed about someday playing in the Olympics, but I didn’t necessarily know when or what time in my life it would occur.  But when we got to Olympic Residency Camp, (all the young players) kind of took the attitude of let’s go after it and let’s just get better and see what happens.  And that’s part of the reason we were so successful, because we went after it. It turned out to be a great experience for us.”
CC: “Heather, you were not looking so good towards the end of residency, but you made a late run to make the team.”
O’Reilly: “Jeez, thanks.”
CC: “What we mean is, that your chances of making the team weren’t looking so good, but you had a great last two weeks where you made an impression.”
Tarpley: “I always thought your chances were good, Heath!”
O’Reilly: “Well, early in the year, I kind of struggled with the national team and didn’t get brought into the Portugal trip for the Algarve Cup (in March) and went to China with the U-21s.  I think that was a really good experience for me; it got my confidence up because I got a lot of playing time and got a few goals.  Then as residency went on, I had some ups and some downs and just wanted to go out with a bang.  I wanted to leave something in April’s mind when she was making the decision on the team and luckily I did.”
Tarpley: “Can I add something? In regards to what Heather went through, I think that everyone knew what Heather was all about throughout the whole process.  Even when she wasn’t in Portugal, she was considered in the core group, so even though there were some setbacks, in order for that team to win, I feel Heather had to be a part of the team.”
O’Reilly: “Awwwwwwwww! Thanks Tarpy!”

CC: “What was it like to score such big goals in such an important tournament like the Olympics?”
O’Reilly: “It was really cool, but speaking for myself I was just trying to contribute to the team.  If that meant scoring goals, or getting an assists or just working hard in the last 20 minutes when I got some playing time.  Or even if it was just me cheering the team on from the bench, I just tried to do whatever role April and the team needed me to do.  Tarpley had a great goal, but that’s not all she provided during the tournament.”
Tarpley: “I think Heather and I both took the same approach in that we wanted to do whatever it took to help the team. Whether that was on the field, off the field, or however it changed during the tournament, we were willing to sacrifice ourselves during the tournament.”

CC: “If you can pick one, can you share the most important thing you learned from the veteran players?”
Tarpley: “I think mine would be to have fun while you are working hard and trying to achieve your goals.  You have to enjoy the moment and enjoy the process.”
O’Reilly: “Along those same lines is just how much importance the veterans place on balance in their lives and how they are some of the best female athletes in the world, but they cherish their friendships and their families and how much time they got to spend together on these trips.  There has to be a balance in their lives and that contributed to how great they were.”

CC: “What would you say were the coolest experiences you had off the field in Greece?”
Tarpley: “Being roommates with Heather!”
O’Reilly: “Well that, but also the last couple of days were pretty cool.  I know you can’t write about the parties and stuff, but the closing ceremonies were pretty cool, and eating in the cafeteria with all the other athletes and meeting all the other athletes from all the other countries…and of course the parties.”
Tarpley: “I think a big thing was after we won was walking around the Village and having people recognize us and know what we had accomplished, just like we had recognized other athletes throughout the Olympics who had won gold.”

CC: “What was the most interesting food you tried over in Greece?”
O’Reilly: “Just a whole lot of Gyros.”
Tarpley: “Yeah.  Gyros.”
O’Reilly: “I had me some good Gyros.”

CC: “What does the future hold for the U.S. Women’s National Team?”
O’Reilly: “Good things.  I think the veterans set a standard and that it’s going to be the job of the next generation to carry on that tradition.  We have a lot to look forward to over the next couple of years.  We are looking forward to having another chance at winning a World Cup and traveling to China more than a few times, I guess.”
Tarpley: “I just think we had the opportunity to learn from the best, the women who paved the way for the younger girls.  The future looks bright.  If we can continue to learn and develop, the possibilities are endless.”

CC: “Can you talk about some of the other young players who might burst into the international scene in the next few years?”
Tarpley: “Well, I think obviously the young girls who were in residency like Leslie Osborne, Lori Chalupny and Amy LePeilbet, but the whole U-21 team and the U-19s are doing great and U.S. Soccer has invested so much in the youth that I think anybody on the youth national teams has a good chance.”
O’Reilly: “The Under-19 World Cup (in November in Thailand) will be a really good chance to identify some of the new stars coming up in the ranks and new personalities developing through our youth teams.”

CC: “Okay, we are going to shift gears here a bit to your college team.  Last year was obviously a big year for your college team, with the championship and the undefeated record.  You also never lost a game in your age level with the U.S. U-19s, but can you talk about the run for the Tar Heels?”
O’Reilly: “Something I find real special about college soccer is that these are the girls you see every day after classes or on campus.  All our friends get to come and you get to hang out after the games.  It’s such a family atmosphere, especially here at Carolina.  So, that’s what made the run so special.  Everyone here on campus was rooting for us and we got to see each other at school the next day.  I just love the school atmosphere part of college soccer.”
Tarpley: “That’s a really good answer.”

CC: “Who are the teams, besides UNC, that will be have to watch out for in the NCAA playoffs?”
O’Reilly: “I guess right now we are not even ranked #1 so we have to give a lot of respect to the teams that are ranked above us.  I know Notre Dame is undefeated so far and a lot of the usual suspects are always going to come out with strong teams, so we have to be prepared for anybody in the ACC and the NCAA Tournament.”
Tarpley: “I think the level across the country has gotten so much better.  There are a lot of top teams that have the talent to win so it will be interesting.”

CC: “Okay, a couple off-the-field questions.  What is the best place to ‘pig out’ around the UNC campus?”
Tarpley: “The Loop!  I get a BBQ chicken pizza, Oreo shake and a salad.”
CC: “I think you have told Center Circle in the past that that’s your favorite meal.”
Tarpley: “Sure is! I’m going there tonight!”
CC: “What about you Heather?  Heather?”
O’Reilly: “(Undecipherable words as O’Reilly as arrived at the restaurant for the pre-game meal)…Sorry, I was just putting in my order!”
CC: “What did you order?”
O’Reilly: “The Moose.  You know, like the animal.  It’s a sandwich.” 
CC: “What’s on The Moose?”
O’Reilly: “Lots of stuff.  It basically a massive club sandwich.  Okay, there are a lot of good Mexican places around that I like to go to.  Hector’s is a famed late night spot.  Of course, you have Time Out, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
Tarpley: “That’s just not right.”
CC: “What kind of food do they have there?”
O’Reilly: “Well, there are a lot of chicken and biscuits and…Tarpy, what else do they have there?”
Tarpley: “Just a lot of Southern stuff.”
O’Reilly: “Yeah, Southern stuff.  These two Northern girls don’t know too much about that.”

CC: “Okay, moving on.  What is your toughest class this semester?”
Tarpley: “Based on my most recent test, my geography class.  But Heather, I studied with your roommate.  She’s awesome.”
O’Reilly: “Yeah, she’s cool.  Let’s see…my toughest class might be my sports psychology class.  Even though it is very interesting, my teacher makes the exams very difficult.”

CC: “As former high school basketball players, will Roy Williams get the Tar Heel basketball team back to their former glory?”
O’Reilly: “On paper, they seem to be really strong this year.  I just hope they can come together as a unit, which was their problem last year.  I have faith in them.”

CC: “What made the U-19 team that won the world championship so good?”
Tarpley: “I think there were a lot of factors that went into that team.  The team chemistry was unbelievable and we had so much fun.  Tracey (Leone) was an excellent coach for us and she provided an atmosphere were we wanted to work hard.”
O’Reilly: “Our captain wasn’t so shabby either.”
Tarpley: “Thanks Heath.”
O’Reilly: “Oh, here she is with her boot and everything! Tarp and I are standing right next to each other right now, but back to the U-19s.  We were young, and we were excited and motivated, and not that you lose any of that when you get a bit older, but it was just the first of anything like that for any of us.  Some of the college girls had one college season under their belts, but for a lot of us it was the first major thing any of us had done and we were excited to be a part of something that huge.”

CC: “I know you haven’t seen this group of U-19s very much, but there are four players who played with you in 2002, so how do you think this year’s U-19s will do?”
Tarpley: “I think they are going to do really well.  I’ve heard a lot of great things and they have a ton of talented players.  It will be a great experience for them.”
O’Reilly: “I agree.  They have a lot of Jersey girls on that team and that makes it even more awesome.”

CC: “Last question, do you think it’s strange that both of you guys had the same injury (O’Reilly broke her fibula in June of 2003, like Tarpley, in a collision with a goalkeeper) and how has Heather helped Lindsay through her injury?
Tarpley: “Do we have to talk about injuries? As soon as I got hurt, they took me off the field and Heather come out a little while later, but as soon as she came off the field, the first thing she did was come up to me and ask me if it was going to be okay and asked the trainers what was wrong.  I don’t think she has any idea of how much that meant to me and how much support she gave me.  She even asked if she could leave the game and come to the emergency room with me.  Little things like that are so comforting.”
O’Reilly: “Before I got injured last summer, I didn’t really have any major setbacks in my career.  I know that Tarp has had some nicks and some bad shin splints, but she hadn’t had any really big injuries or setbacks before this.  So I knew how much this could really get her down, and I just felt with my experience from last summer that I could really help her out a lot.  I told her six weeks were going to go quick and she’s going to plug away at her rehab and she’ll be back to normal before she knows it.  She’s so dedicated and focused to the sport that I knew it would be tough for her to sit on the sidelines for the next six weeks, but she’ll be back and we can’t wait to have her.”
CC: “Thanks very much and good luck against Miami.”
Tarpley: “Thanks!”
O’Reilly: Thanks!”

Editors Note: After devouring the entire Moose sandwich, O’Reilly had two goals and an assist in just 42 minutes of play as UNC downed Miami 5-1 to improve to 11-0-1 this year and extend their unbeaten streak.  Tarpley played her part cheering from the sidelines.