It’s not everyday that a club can pick up a player with three Olympic gold medals in her trophy case. But that’s precisely what the Boston Breakers did when they selected Heather O’Reilly in last week’s National Women’s Soccer League allocation draft.
Granted, O’Reilly is no stranger to the Breakers organization. She spent portions of last summer with the club in preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
“I only played a few games (for Boston), but I definitely got a sense of what this organization is about,” said O’Reilly, who played in two games for the Breakers last year, during a phone interview on Monday. “My experience with the Breakers, although brief, was very enjoyable. I enjoyed the fans, the coaching staff. [But having played for the Breakers last year] will make my transition a bit easier.”
O’Reilly arrived in Boston with the understanding that her contributions would be limited due to her Olympic obligations with the U.S. Women’s National Team. Nevertheless, the Breakers got O’Reilly for a few weeks, allowing some of its younger players to train and interact with one of the best players in the country.
The Breakers organization showed their gratitude to the former North Carolina Tar Heel by honoring her at halftime of their Jul. 6 match against the New England Mutiny. It was a fitting farewell to the Olympic star, who left for Olympic training two days later.
Now, without a major summer tournament on tap, the Breakers are hoping to get a full season’s worth of O’Reilly’s trademark playmaking abilities.
Joining O’Reilly on the Breakers roster are fellow U.S. teammates Heather Mitts and Sydney LeRoux, as well as a number of CONCACAF rivals. Among them: Canadian internationals Rhian Wilkinson and Adriana Leon as well as Mexican internationals Anisa Guajardo and Cecilia Santiago.
“It’s an interesting dynamic,” said O’Reilly of playing with her continental rivals for the Breakers next season. “I can’t even guess how many games I’ve played against Wilkinson on the National Team. I’m excited to have her on my side this time.”
Re-uniting with Mitts and LeRoux should make the transition smooth O’Reilly, who won her third gold medal with both players in London.
Mitts is an established central defender who played for the Breakers during their days in the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer.
“Mitts is somebody who is just the perfect teammate,” O’Reilly said. “She’s always going to be fit. She’s always going to be ready to go. She provides so much to the team environment.”
Meanwhile, LeRoux is a rising star. In 27 appearances with the U.S., the 22-year-old striker scored 14 goals, leaving a lasting impression with her soon-to-be Breakers teammate.
“Coming off the bench [for the U.S.], she pumped in 12 goals,” O’Reilly said. “That was all off the bench! I’m really proud of Syd as a player. She’s handled herself very well on and off the field. And, she’s entertaining.”
The Breakers are likely to add some players from last year’s WPSL Elite roster including U.S. national team players Cat Whitehill and Leslie Osbourne, last year’s team captain.
Other possible returnees include Taryn Hemmnings, who can play as either an attacker or central defender, Katie Schoepfer, who scored eight goals last season, and Australian internationals Kyah Simon and Tameka Butt.
As for O’Reilly, she’s already looking forward to returning to Beantown and working with whoever else the club brings in for 2013.
“I got a sense of what the Breakers are about (last year),” O’Reilly said. “I like Lisa Cole as coach, she runs good training sessions and she is very organized. It’s going to be competitive.”