EDMONTON, ALBERTA - On Monday night, East Brunswick native Heather O’Reilly and the rest of the U.S. Women’s National Team won their first knockout match against Colombia 2-0. After passing through the group stage with no issues the women started their run through the knockout stages against a dangerous Colombian national team. Heading into the game the Colombian team was doing a lot of talking and puffing out their chests.
The game started out with a slow pace and a lot of penalties on the American side including two yellow cards to both Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe, who will both be forced to miss the team’s next game. Right out of the half however, the game changed dramatically. Just two minutes into the second half the Colombian keeper was issued a red card for a tackle on a breakaway by Alex Morgan. The Colombians then were forced to play the rest of the half down a player with their backup keeper.
Abby Wambach missed the following penalty kick but the momentum had already turned to the American side so it didn’t matter. Just six minutes later Morgan scored the game winner by banging a shot off the keeper and into the back of the net. To seal the deal Carli Lloyd scored on a penalty kick after Rapinoe was fouled in the box.
The team has multiple New Jersey natives including Lloyd, Tobin Heath, Christie Rampone and O’Reilly. Lloyd is from Delran and graduated from Rutgers, Rampone graduated from Monmouth and comes from Point Pleasant. Heath was born is Morristown but was raised in Basking Ridge and went to North Carolina for college.
O’Reilly was raised in East Brunswick and went to East Brunswick High School, where she rose to national fame. She was part of the state championship team in 2001 for the high school and was Gatorade’s National Player of the Year as a senior in 2002. This was also the first year she joined the Women’s National Team and immediately had an impact at age 17. O'Reilly was also a varsity basketball player for coach Reggie Carney while at East Brunswick.
She was a member of the national team for only four games in 2002 but was an important contributor on the U-19 team that won the world championship. In the championship game she helped on the game winning goal in overtime against Canada. Unfortunately she missed the 2003 World Cup due to a broken fibula at the time.
Once O’Reilly was fully recovered she became a prominent member of the 2004 Olympic gold medal team in Athens. Against Germany, she scored the game-winning goal to put America against Brazil for the gold. She has been on every Olympic and National team since then and continually puts in crucial goals for both teams. In 2008 O’Reilly scored the fastest goal in Olympic women’s soccer history against New Zealand to help advance the team to the quarterfinals.
At all levels of the game she has been recognized as one of the greatest to play the game and has won awards and championships as well. Currently, she is a substitute coming into games late to try and inject some offense into the team which has been criticized for its lack of offense so far in the tournament. O’Reilly and the rest of the National Team will take on China for a spot in the semifinals.