U.S. Women's Soccer

Pia Sundhage, the U.S. women's national soccer team's Swedish coach, has earned the respect of her players. But she doesn't take herself too seriously and has been known to burst into song from time to time. Video by Dan Steinberg/The Washington Post, Edited by
Heather O'Reilly
Forward, U.S. Women's Soccer
Friday, May 9, 2008; 2:00 PM

U.S. Women's soccer team forward Heather O'Reilly was online Friday, May 9, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss Saturday's exhibition game against Canada at RFK Stadium and what's in store for the Beijing Olympics in August.

Reilly has played 85 times for the USA, scoring 19 goals. This year she has started 12 of the USA's 13 games and played in all of them, scoring four goals with four assists. She was named MVP of the Four Nations Tournament in China last January.

She was a starter at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup in China, where she scored twice, including a big goal against North Korea in the opening game 2-2 tie. She is considered by many as perhaps the U.S.'s fastest player. After playing forward for all of her youth and full National Team career, this year she is playing right midfield and doing very well. She has four goals and four assists so far this year.

A transcript follows.

____________________ Heather will be with us shortly. She's wrapping up a shopping trip.


Leesburg, Va.: What's the biggest change in the team that you've seen with the coaching change since the World Cup?

Heather O'Reilly: I think the biggest change is a completely different style of play. Pia is trying to instill a much more possession-oriented game. So I think that we're still in our journey of developing what we want to play and what we'll look like in August.


Piney O: In the early part of your playing career when you first got to Carolina there was the American public's tradition of trying to match every young athlete as the next so and your case it was Mia Hamm, did you feel pressure from those types of expectations?

Good look in China!

Heather O'Reilly: I think I tried to keep my head above water and when I heard comparisons like that I just kind of shook it off. What Mia did for the game will never be done again. I'm just trying to be the best me I can be. I have enough trouble with that already.


Bowie, Md.: Heather -- what do YOU see are some of the differences between the men's and women's game. During the World Cup disaster -- the media kept saying how much the women's team needs to like each other. As someone who has played sports -- I could care less if I like who is next to me as long as they get the job done. Do you have to like the person you play with to do well?

Heather O'Reilly: In men's or women's sports team chemistry is crucial for success. I think that both men's and women's ... you have to feel like you're supporting your teammates and they're supporting you.


Washington, D.C.: You played for one of the most competitive soccer clubs, PDA. How did their training and coaching help you get to where you are today? Any influential coaches while you were there?

Heather O'Reilly: Absolutely. I can talk a long time about my soccer club PDA. They just provided the most competitive environment in critical years of my soccer development. I can thank Charlie Naimo and Mike O'Neill especially for developing me as a player.


Burke, Va.: OK Heather, I am going to ask the tough question. How would you have handled the 'Hope Solo' keeper fiasco at the last World Cup?

Heather O'Reilly: I think all that I want to say about that is that things were handled as a team last year. There's really no point in looking back. This whole year has been about moving forward and looking to the Olympics.


Potomac, Md.: Do you feel that you have more freedom to play creatively under Coach Sundhage than under the former coach?

Heather O'Reilly: I think that under Pia I'm playing a new position; I'm playing right midfielder and not forward -- so my role is quite a bit different from last year. But at the same time the play is much less direct. So all of us have a bit more play-making responsibility.


Park City, Utah How does it feel to be playing without Kristine Lilly and with so many new names?

Heather O'Reilly: We miss Kristin a lot and I know she misses us as well but is looking forward to having her fist baby but I think the tradition of this team is so strong that personalities can change and players can change but the core of the national will always stay the same with a very high standard.


Annandale, Va.: What is your favorite tournament to participate in each year?

Heather O'Reilly: My favorite tournament to play in ... the 2004 Olympic Games were very exciting for me and hopefully they'll be okay for me this summer. Overall, the Olympic Games.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Heather -- Good Luck against Canada -- make syrup out of them! The question I have is what happened at the World Cup? Which upset the team more in the form of chemistry -- the coach's decision or Hope's response? Also -- is there a clean slate now with Hope and the rest of the team. GO USA

Heather O'Reilly: We as players just play. Coaches decisions are going to be made and we as players need to have positive responses to that. Things have definitely moved forward and that seems like a long time ago.


Pacifica, Calif.: What an exciting game your team had against Australia recently. Congratulations. Is the team moving toward a more attacking style or is the great motivation to succeed and sense of urgency make it appear that way?

Also, as a coach of U10 girls I am interested in what you think is the best way to relate to young girls/women. Anson Dorrance, your excellent coach at UNC, stresses the importance of having a good one-on-one relationship with his players -- a more personal approach than he would probably use with boys/men. Do you think this difference in philosophy is or was helpful in your situation?

Good luck this summer!

Heather O'Reilly: I think it's fair to say that our attack now is a more team oriented attack and instead of just sending the ball forward and having only a couple attackers, the team is moving up as a unit.

At any age you need to find what's gonna make your players tick. Anson is always looking for ways to get the best out his players and what motivates them individually. In order to do that you really need to know your players.


Arlington, Va.: Heather -- Do you know why Brazil was not given a top seed for the draw, so that we now have Brazil and Germany in the same Group? From what I have seen, the USA got an excellent draw.

Heather O'Reilly: I don't really know how they do the drawing but I do know that Brazil doesn't play that many games so it's hard to rank them internationally.


Aldie, Va.: The officiating at the World Cup was uneven at best. Do you believe that the Olympics (and the World Cup) should use the best refs in the World, even if that means using refs from the men's leagues?

Heather O'Reilly: As unfair as we feel that refs are at times. FIFA says they are providing the best refs out there. So at a point we have to forget the officiating.


Falls Church, Va.: What is your favorite thing to do on your days off?

Heather O'Reilly: Hmm. When we have time off, I'm spending a lot of it with my boyfriend Dave in New York City. We like to do a lot of New York City things, like try new restaurants, go to plays and museums. The shopping's not bad either.


Washington, D.C.: So how are you all going to do against Canada Saturday at RFK?

Heather O'Reilly: I think we're gonna win. I think we outplayed them in a qualifying tournament and came away with tie. But this time around, hopefully we'll finish better.


Alexandria, Va.: There are always very high expectations for the US women's soccer team -- along the lines of the Yankees, Patriots (lately), Lakers, etc. For new players coming onto the team, is it hard to get used to that?

Heather O'Reilly: I don't think it's very hard because for most of use we've been on very successful college teams so we're accustomed bo being held to a high standard.


Alexandria, Va.: How did it feel to have your UNC jersey retired earlier this year?

Heather O'Reilly: It was a thrill. UNC is known for such a great tradition of athletics and it's really special to be put in the books forever, retired forever. UNC is definitely a very special place to me.


Arlington, Va.: Just to follow-up, I would have thought that the two finalists from the World Cup would have gotten the top seeds for the draw. Anyway, I see you first game against Norway will be on at 7:45 a.m. here on the East Coast on August 6. I'll be watching. Also, what other teams will you be playing friendlies against in the lead-up to the Games?

Heather O'Reilly: We have two friendly matches against Brazil later in the summer.


Re: Brazil not playing that many games...: There was some speculation after the World Cup that Brazil was a hard team to prepare for because they don't play a lot of games between competitions and therefore are difficult to scout and prep for. The U.S. on the other hand plays many games throughout the year and perhaps teams were well aware of and prepared for your style of play. First, have people "figured out" the US style? Second, is there a more delicate balance that could be struck to keep the opposition off guard between competitions?

Heather O'Reilly: I think that's a great question. I think that our view is that the more games will be the better because we'll be the best "us" that we can be. And when we reach our potential nobody can stop us come Olympics time.


Washington, D.C.: Congrats on getting MVP at the Four Nations. I love watching the new style of attack the team is utilizing because the goals can come from anywhere on the field. What is your most memorable goal for the National Team?

Heather O'Reilly: The most recent goal that we scored by Angela Hucles in extra time for the win against Australia. It was a beautiful goal.


Heather O'Reilly: We're very excited for our game against Canada tomorrow, Hope to see you out there to watch, hopefully, the progress in our preparation for the Olympic Games.


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