71113_heathtobin_isi_uswntack20130615253 Andrew Katsampes/isiphotos.com

Heath To Provide a Needed Boost for Thorns

The talented midfielder is making her NWSL debut just in time to help a slumping Portland squad rediscover its scoring touch. But will the presence of the American be enough?
BY Maura Gladys Posted
July 11, 2013
11:00 AM
If there was ever an NWSL team that needed a mid-season jolt, the Portland Thorns would be that squad. After high expectations and strong start to the season, the Thorns have dropped their last two games and haven’t won since June 16th. The dip in form has been deep enough to put Portland four points behind league leaders Sky Blue and just one point ahead of third place FC Kansas City.

But if there was ever a player that could give a team a jolt, that player is Tobin Heath. Luckily for the Thorns, Heath just arrived and could make her NWSL debut as early as Sunday afternoon.

Heath was allocated to the Thorns last year, but spent the first half of 2013 with Paris Saint-Germain Ladies, an up-and-coming team on the women’s side that isn’t afraid to splash the cash. The team made headlines in 2012 when it wooed American teenager Lindsay Horan away from a scholarship at the University of North Carolina with a six-figure contract and boasts other well-known players including Swedish forward Kosovare Asllani. Heath made seven appearances and scored two goals with for PSG, helping it finish second in Ligue 1 and qualify for the Champions League next season.

But now she's back in the U.S. In Heath, the Thorns will get one of the most technically-savvy, creative players that the American national team has to offer. While she's unable to physically dominate the midfield, Heath will add a spark with her skill and vision. Heath’s addition will also allow several Thorns to revert back to more comfortable positions in what has been a bit of a cobbled-together midfield. After defensive midfielder Becky Edwards suffered a torn ACL in mid-June, attacking midfielder Allie Long dropped back to fill her spot, while natural forward Christine Sinclair moved back to attacking central mid. This left one of Portland’s best scorers further back on the field, trying to distribute, and their other top forward, Alex Morgan alone up top, with very few scoring opportunities. With Heath in the lineup, she and Long can control the midfield while Sinclair partners with Morgan up top.

The most important aspect of Heath’s addition is that she will be able to feed Morgan the ball. Heath had a trained eye for finding the perfect pass, and Morgan has been hungry.

"The part of our game that has been missing is the final pass in the final third," Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow-Cone told OregonLive.com. "That's one thing that [Heath is] very good at."

Just watch how she sets up Morgan in the United States’ 4-0 win over Canada in June. Cone also praised Heath’s other skills, and deflected the notion that Heath’s entrance comes at the perfect time.

“There’s no bad timing to bring in a player like Tobin Heath,” Cone said. “She’s good on both sides of the ball. She’s so technical. She just brings another dimension to our midfield. I’m just looking forward to getting her out there.”

Heath could make her debut as early as this Sunday when the Thorns take on the Western New York Flash at JELD-WEN field and the midfielder is eager to help out.

“Hopefully, I can contribute in a few different ways,” Heath said. “I need to get a feel for the players and the position I’m going to be playing and seeing what’s needed. I know what my strengths are, but it’s a matter of figuring out where they line up with other players on the field and what this team needs.”

Post a comment