Catching Up Across the Pond with Heather O’Reilly

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This article originally appeared in the April 21sissue of our newsletter, The Raven. Subscribe HERE

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Ahead of the Women’s Super League’s kick off this weekend we caught up with our favorite new Gunner, Heather O’Reilly. We spoke with HAO about adjusting to life in the UK, eating chicken tikka masala all day and her jokes not resonating with a British audience.

MIB: Where do you live in England and how do you like life in the Albion?

HAO: For now, I live in St. Albans which is about 20 miles north of the city and close to the Arsenal training ground. It only takes me five minutes to get to training (although there are two roundabouts so that's two brushes with death!) so in terms of ease and convenience that is why I live there. But St. Albans is a really cute little city, without all the hustle and bustle and traffic of London. The team put me up in a flat and I actually have a roommate/teammate (Jodi Taylor) that I knew before joining Arsenal Ladies. She's awesome. On days off, I take the train into London and explore all the different neighborhoods. So far, Marylebone might be my favorite. Marylebone is a charming area, with cobblestone streets and more boutique shops. I would compare it to New York's West Village. But Shoreditch is super cool too, in a much hipper Brooklyn kind of way.

MIB: What do you miss most about living in the U.S. and what’s been the biggest transition so far?

HAO: I would say the sun shines less here, I haven't found great Mexican food, and generally people are a little less outgoing and effusive. So I would say I miss those things. I miss my family, and in the U.S. I have played with some of my teammates for a very long time. Some I have played with and against for 15 years! I really, really like my teammates here but sometimes I have to explain my jokes, haha! So at times I am the new kid, and for me that is a very new feeling that I haven't had in awhile.

MIB: What is the biggest difference, on and off the field, between the NWSL and the WSL?

HAO: It’s hard to say much about the league as a whole because we are just kicking off the season this coming weekend, but I would say stereotypically the NWSL is faster and a more transitional game, with a very even table. The WSL has historically had top teams, and the style is more of a tactical battle. You can certainly tell that the players have watched and breathed the game for a long time.

MIB: Do you keep in touch with the other U.S. players in England, like Carli and Crystal? Do you have a WhatsApp group chat going?

HAO: I do text with Carli and Crystal to check in! Obviously since Crystal is London-based as well I have been able to see her but I haven't seen Carli yet. We don't have a WhatsApp group but that is a good idea! I am looking forward to seeing them when I play them! And I won't have to explain my jokes to them! Whether they laugh at them is a different story.

MIB: What’s your favorite new restaurant and what are you ordering?

HAO: I love the Indian food here. Chicken tikka masala all day. I also like the avo on toast. Not those two things together though, that would be weird. My favorite local cafe is called Hatch. Great avo on toast. English food isn't as bad as they make it sound.

MIB: Since choosing to retire from international football, what's it been like to experience watching the USWNT?

HAO: It is interesting watching the team from a distance! I don't get nervous, (I'm sure I will come World Cups and Olympics) but I definitely check the score often if I am not able to watch. The team was a big part of my life for a very long time, and I am so proud of that. At the same time, this experience in London at Arsenal has taught me that there is a big world out there, football and otherwise, that sometimes you lose sight of when you are so intensely focused on one environment. [LISTEN TO OUR HAO FAREWELL POD SPECIAL HERE]