By Ray Alley

USA’s Heather O’Reilly Will Leave Arsenal Ladies To Return Home

Another chapter to the storied soccer career of Heather O’Reilly is coming to a close.  It is a career that began as a youth player in New Jersey then moved to Chapel Hill, NC, for four years as a UNC All-America forward. She appeared 97 times for the Tar Heels, scoring 59 goals and assisting on 49 others. She led her team to the national Championships in 2003 and 2006.

The former US. International joined the Arsenal Ladies in England in January 2017. She made 38 appearances with the north London club, scoring four goals.

She quickly became a fan favorite at Meadow Park, helping the club to its fifth Continental Cup title. She played a key role in the team reaching last season’s SSE Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley, scoring in the quarterfinal win over Charlton Athletic.

“We’d like to thank Heather for her contribution and wish her the best of luck for the future.” the club said through an announcement on Arsenal.com.

Departure is imminent to Chapel Hill and the home she shares with husband Dave Werry, a former Tar Heel lacrosse player whom she met when the two attended UNC. They married in 2011.

She settled there in her post-UNC years, but the roots weren’t that deep. Those were filled with 15 years as a key player with the U.S. Women’s National team and a professional career with four different teams. She played in 231 international games for the USA, scoring 47 goals.

She played on gold medal teams in three Olympics in Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012). She was on three FIFA World Cup teams, winning gold in China and Canada.  She retired from international soccer in 2016, but not from the game.

There was one more item on her bucket list. She had never played in a professional league in Europe. That was checked off when she signed with Arsenal.

“I’ve really enjoy it,” she said earlier this year in an interview with soccer writer Jack Bell. “This is the first time I’ve lived overseas. I’ve traveled a bit with the national team. But this is an adventure in some ways. Just the small nuances. Things are slightly different. Driving on left side of the road was hilarious and difficult at the same time. I like to say I was a danger to society for a few days.”

She’s returning to Chapel Hill at a good time.  It’s summer and life is a little slower pace as the university braces for the fall semester. She can always find work at the 96-year old Carolina Coffee Shop on Franklin Street. She’s a co-owner.

And if she has the urge to kick a soccer ball, there will be a new soccer stadium on campus for the fall season. The tug of the game never ends. And if Anson Dorrance, the legendary UNC coach, needs another assistant he is well aware there is a “new girl in town.”

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