Tobin Heath

Tobin Heath brings 2016 to a close on a high note

Tobin Heath brings 2016 to a close on a high note

Written by John Stupak

It’s something we’ve known all throughout the year, whether we watched the Portland Thorns or the Women’s National Team, but it can now be declared with little doubt; we have the best women’s soccer player in the nation.

With little fanfare and minimal media coverage, Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath has been named the 2016 Soccer Female Player of the Year.

Tobin’s award marks a welcome high point in what has been an up and down year for sports in Oregon. The Oregon Ducks football program was atrocious most of the year. But, the Oregon State Beavers finally won a Civil War game. The Portland Trail Blazers had a promising 2016 but has underwhelmed going into 2017. The defending MLS Cup Champs, the Portland Timbers, saw its championship trophy being handed over to the Seattle Sounders (ouch!). Tobin’s own NWSL team, the Thorns, had a record-breaking regular-season but lost in the playoffs at home.

Tobin’s accomplishment, while individual, marks a final high note in 2016 for not only the Thorns, but for Oregon sports in general.

Heath had a NWSL-record 10 assists this season, which is amazing considering she missed a significant amount of time with the national team where she also recorded a career-best six goals and eight assists while playing the second most minutes on the team. She helped the Portland Thorns win the regular season title and was named to the NWSL Best XI. She also recorded two assists during the 2016 Olympic Games. Not a bad year by any stretch.

At only 28, Heath should still be entering her prime soccer years, which bolds well for the Thorns’ bid to win another championship. Heath was able to flourish under first-year coach Mark Parsons; she awed the Providence Park crowd with her footwork and perfect set-ups. Nearly a decade into her career, Heath can still dazzle amongst the best while embracing her new role as a leader among teammates. Without doubt, Heath is as much fun to watch as any soccer player on the planet, men’s or women’s.

So, let’s give some yuletide cheer to Heath as we wrap up this most uneven year. She deserves it. The fans deserve it. Portland deserves it. There will be no parades in downtown, they would all be canceled due to weather, anyway. 2016 was not the year we were have all hoping it was going to be for a variety of reasons. But, it should be said one last time before we close it out, we do have Tobin Heath.

 

Thorns remain undefeated with 2-0 win over Red Stars

Thorns remain undefeated with 2-0 win over Red Stars

There were no magic second half equalizers this time around for the Red Stars. In fact, there were no goals at all. Portland held the Red Stars scoreless in a dominating performance to extend their club record undefeated steak to 10 matches.

The Thorns wasted little time getting on the board in this one. Six minutes into the match Christine Sinclair intercepted a Chicago dribble just feet from the goal, and in one smooth motion sent the ball to the back of the net. It was the third straight match the Canadian National Team star has scored a goal, and the second straight game in which her goal ended up being the eventual game winner.

With the early lead all the Thorns needed to do was finish with smart defense, and they did just that. Much like the last time these two met, the Thorns held the Red Stars at bay. For much of the game Chicago struggled to get in a real flow. When they did have a chance to walk through the door, the Portland backline and goalkeeper Michelle Betos would slam the door shut.

To their credit, the Chicago defense was strong as well. Both defenses force turnovers, and for much of the game it was a back and forth of possession changes.

When Portland eventually founds another chance to score, they took full advantage, Portland picked up a nice little cushion in the 25th minute, scoring goal No.2 two off a beautiful set piece. Tobin Heath sent the corner kick into the box where Amandine Henry was waiting for the header. Henry’s header ended up bouncing off Nadia Nadim’s head and into the net. Nadim was credited with the goal, Henry with the assist.

Speaking of Amandine Henry, the newest Thorn had quite the debut. She looked comfortable on the pitch, was not afraid to push the ball, and had a few key defensive stops to help Portland pick up the clean sheet. It was exactly what the Thorns needed to pick up the win.

Final Score: The Thorns remain undefeated and move into first place in the NWSL with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars:

Standout Thorns: To no one’s surprise Christine Sinclair had another standout game. Sinclair has been in rare form as of late, and it was no different tonight. She scored the games opening goal, marking her third straight match in which she has sent the ball home. It was also the second straight game in which she scored the first goal for the Thorns, both eventual game winners. She almost had a brace as well, but her second shot just skimmed the cross bar. Brace or not, it was another wonderful game for the Portland striker.

Next Up: The Thorns don’t have much time to rest before traveling to Florida to take on the Orlando Pride. Kickoff is set for 2:00pm on Sunday, June 26.