A Look Back: Heather O'Reilly's 40-Second Goal Against New Zealand
Heather O’Reilly has been around the soccer block.
She’s played in 97 games for the full Women’s National Team, won a FIFA youth Women’s World Cup, scored twice in a FIFA Women’s World Cup, won an Olympic gold medal and been a part of two NCAA titles teams. She’s scored many a goal and experienced pretty much everything a female soccer player can experience.
However, just 40 seconds into the USA’s 4-0 victory over New Zealand on Aug. 12 to finish Group G play at the 2008 Olympics, O’Reilly experienced something entirely different.
The 5-foot-5 midfielder latched onto a ball headed into her path by Carli Lloyd, took a touch and blasted a 30-yard shot over the Kiwi ‘keeper and into the net.
It was the fastest goal in Olympic women’s soccer history and a vitally important moment for the U.S. team in a match that held major ramifications for quarterfinal advancement. For O’Reilly, it was a moment of exhilaration that every athlete dreams of during their careers and one of the main reasons they put in so much hard work.
“All I know is that I think I just struck it on instinct and I saw it rise over the ‘keeper and it was just the best feeling,” said the 23-year old. “My teammates seemed to get to me so quickly and it was like they lifted me off the ground. I was floating. They were all screaming so loud in my face and I just got the goose-bumps and I couldn’t stop smiling. It was an amazing moment for me and the team.”
How often has a young American soccer player dreamed of scoring a goal in the Olympics? Perhaps from way outside the box? Perhaps one that was all-important for her team winning the group? Perhaps coming in the first minute of the game?
O’Reilly is one of the lucky few who has got to live that dream. The memory is burned into her mind.
“When I was going to bed that night, I was still seeing everyone’s faces and how excited they were,” said O’Reilly. “I couldn’t get to sleep that night.”
Immediately after the game, O’Reilly powered up her laptop and received a bunch of excited emails from the States. Her boyfriend, who was watching back in New York City, almost cracked his head on the ceiling of his apartment as he jumped off his bed after the goal. (Manhattan apartments can be a bit cramped).
Twenty-four hours later, O’Reilly admits she might have been as surprised as she was excited.
“First of all, the best thing about the goal was that it was a must-win game for us and it was early in the game,” said O’Reilly. “But I’m not sure I’ve ever scored a goal from that far out before. I feel like more often I’m scoring inside the box, so to get a goal like that was such a thrill for me.”
And as for the record for fastest goal in Olympic history? We know O’Reilly is known for being fast, but this one will go down as a different kind of quick.
“It’s just like a fun bonus,” said O’Reilly. “As long as we got the win and won big, the record thing is just something fun to look back on years from now.”
Odds are, that feeling will last that long.