Tobin Heath Shining Star in USWNT Uncertain Future
Tobin Heath was one of Portland Thorns and USWNT’s main reasons for success in 2016. The former University of North Carolina standout was paramount to both teams’ performances.
Heath’s domestic league form made 2016 her best season so far. The Morristown, New Jersey-native was also key figure for the United States Women’s National team. Despite the USWNT’s poor ending and abject performances in Rio, Heath was a major contributor.
In fact, it was her play for the USWNT that led voters to select her as US Soccer Female of the Year. The midfielder played 22 times for the USWNT, scoring six goals and adding eight assists.
She was just as potent for her club side despite the Thorns ultimate failure to reach the NWSL Playoff Championship final. One goal in 14 appearances was aided by her remarkable 10 assists. Heath did all of that on top of playing 22 times for the USWNT. It is safe to say she was fighting fatigue for much of the NWSL season.
Despite splitting time between the Thorns and USWNT, Heath was able to set a new NWSL single-season assists record. Heath’s 10 assists during her 14 regular season games was a new high and her importance as a creative midfielder propelled the Thorns to score the second most goals in 2016 (35).
Unfortunately, Heath didn’t have the same kind of impact on Portland’s lone playoff game as the Thorns bowed out at the semifinal stage.
“It’s obviously an honor to win an award like this, especially when you look at the list of amazing players who have won it before,” Heath stated in a press release after winning the US Soccer Female Player of the Year award.
“This year was a difficult one for our [USWNT] team, but overall we played some great soccer, so it’s humbling to be recognized individually.
“I’m just proud to be in the company of all the great players that were nominated and all of the players that played for the USA this year.
“I couldn’t have accomplished anything without the support of my teammates and my coaches, and while it was a fun year for me personally, I’m excited not only about my own future, but also the future of this team as I know we have a lot more room to grow and many more goals to achieve.”
Heath’s didn’t understate the “difficult year” for the USWNT. At least by the team’s typically high standards it was a letdown.
The Rio Olympics saw the team not only fail to make it to the gold medal game, but it saw a USWNT in transition.
The red, white and blue struggled during the group stages, with goalkeeper Hope Solo performing below her usual level.
In the end, the USWNT not only lost on penalties to Sweden, but it lost Solo following her eventual suspension.
With the USWNT in transition, Heath is now one of the team’s true leaders. The midfielder has received 128 caps, second only to Carli Lloyd’s 232 in regular USWNT players. Although Lloyd is still playing at a high-level, and plans are to retire in 2020 at the age of 38, Heath is in her prime.
The 28-year-old is at the top of her game, and November’s friendly win over Romania showcased that. Heath’s 55th minute assist for Christine Press helped the USWNT to a 5-0 romp over its Romanian counterparts.
Heath’s soccer career has seen her do everything. A three-time NCAA champion, one-time NWSL champion, two-time Olympic gold medal winner and a one-time FIFA Women’s World Cup winner, Heath has finally received the award she deserved. Moreover, she is garnering recognition for her achievements.
— Carli Lloyd (@CarliLloyd) December 14, 2016
While it isn’t kind to compare players of various generations, Tobin Heath is the modern era’s Mia Hamm. Possibly the greatest to lace up a pair of soccer boots in the USWNT kit, Hamm set the bar for all other female players that have followed.
It is now Heath who will raising the bar for USWNT players in the years to come.