UPDATED with new contract information.
Heather O’Reilly will be joining Arsenal this spring, as reported by Glenn Crooks.
O’Reilly was rumored to moving to Arsenal several months ago, when Our Game Magazine reported she played 90 minutes in a closed-door friendly for the club. But fear not, FC Kansas City fans, word is she’ll be back for part of the season, the same as Alex Morgan and the Orlando Pride.
Indeed, Heather O'Reilly will play for Arsenal this spring but is expected back in KC later this year. FAWSL Spring Series ends June 3. https://t.co/UXfgbKe26J— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) January 17, 2017
(UPDATE: As per Graham Hayes at espnW, O’Reilly’s contract is apparently for 18 months.)
Of course the key difference between O’Reilly and Morgan is that one is still a US women’s national team player and the other is not, retiring after a glitzy farewell match last September.
Still, O’Reilly is still a marquee player and well-known WNT name, not to mention still a very useful attacking piece for FCKC. Her departure coming at the same time as Morgan’s and Crystal Dunn (who is also headed to the FAWSL, but with Chelsea) gives the impression of top NWSL talent fleeing through an escape hatch as US Soccer and the WNT continue negotiating over a new collective bargaining agreement while no big tournament is scheduled for 2017.
But a little context shows that it’s probably just a combination of coincidence and timing. Dunn is headed to Chelsea for 18 months after a turbulent season behind the scenes at the Washington Spirit. Morgan will be back, but is taking her shot at Champions League with one of the premiere women’s teams in the world, Olympique Lyonnais. And O’Reilly is no longer under contract with USSF, so the timing of the four-year cycle is unimportant for her, while the lack of USSF paycheck is perhaps a factor. Three different players, three different sets of circumstances.
O’Reilly’s contract does have some wiggle room, though.
I now have independent confirmation that Heather O'Reilly is heading to Arsenal. Due back in June, but could be options in contract #NWSL— Dan Lauletta (@TheDanLauletta) January 17, 2017
Still, she seems to have good connections at FCKC, and barring that, there’s always the temptation of the North Carolina Courage, where she could surely find a spot between her skills and her ties to the area.