April 20, 2010
By Charles Cuttone
ON THE SAME PAGE
O’Reilly says feeling different at Sky Blue
Sky Blue FC forward Heather O’Reilly has never had to deal with much adversity in her career. The East Brunswick, NJ native has come through winning programs her entire career -- programs where the culture was ingrained, whether it was East Brunswick High School, the University of North Carolina or the U.S. National Team.
|Sky Blue FC’s sometimes rocky path to last year’s WPS title was a learning experience for Heather O’Reilly, who says the experience has helped make the team a more cohesive unit this year.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Until last year, the first season of a new league and a team that went through three coaches and two general managers.
“Across the whole league, and especially in our organization, a lot of things got smoothed out,” said O’Reilly.
“Obviously we went through a lot of coaches last year and that’s a major difference. And I don’t think that is going to be the case this year,” she said. “I think Pauliina (coach Pauliina Miettinen) has done an excellent job of assembling the team and of also putting us on the same page early.”
Despite the adversity of last season, when Head Coach and General Manager Ian Sawyers was fired midway through the season, and then his replacement, Kelly Lindsey, quit during the final weeks of the season, the team rallied around player-coach Christie Rampone, qualified for the playoffs and knocked off two favorites, Saint Louis Athletica and the Los Angeles Sol, to win the title.
Even coming off the championship, O’Reilly sees a big difference.
“I think that maybe the biggest difference is we, from the beginning of preseason, all seem to be on the same page. And it’s difficult when you have national team players and players that are used to leading teams and now you are putting together a group of people that have to work together immediately. Paulina did an excellent job of meshing us from the start and I think that because of that we’re going to have less obstacles.”
O’Reilly said last season, when she scored two goals and was named to the league all-star team, was a learning experience.
“We’re going to definitely lose games at some point this season and go through some tough times,” she explained “But I just think that we kind of have the cohesion to get through that. I think that a lot of that is learning from last year too. As a player I learned a lot last year.”
Despite ultimately winning the championship, O’Reilly experienced something last season she rarely has had to go through her career with both the Tar Heels and the National Team. Losing games.
“Being part of the U.S. National Team and being part of North Carolina, I wasn’t used to losing games or going through those kind of challenges and I think that experience was really good for players like myself and other players to really go through that adversity. Obviously we came through it at the end and ended the season the way we would want to.”
“That was something that I was definitely not used to. I don’t want to say I expect this year, hopefully we won’t lose a game all season, but I will say that this league is challenging. I am almost prepared to go through adversity because of last season.”
O’Reilly says the feel around the team and the league is much different this year. General Manager Gerry Marrone, who took over last year when Sawyers was fired, brought in Pauliina Miettinen and the year of experience all around has helped.
“Everything is much smoother, more professional and I just love the environment this year,” said O’Reilly. “I love the training environment. Last year we didn’t have any problem with chemistry or anything like that, but this year you can tell there is an extra sense of respect and professionalism throughout the team.”