espnW: Portland Thorns FC
Happy birthday, Tobin Heath! The U.S. women's soccer star turns 26 today. A former standout at North Carolina, Heath helped lead the Tar Heels to three national championships in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and was a two-time NCAA first-team All-American. While still a student, the New Jersey native made her debut with the U.S. senior team in January of 2008 and was the youngest member on the gold-medal winning team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Heath has been a valuable member of the team since and helped lead the United States to a 2012 Olympic gold medal and a second-place finish at the 2011 Women's World Cup. The midfielder has eight goals in 73 appearances with the national team. Heath also plays for Paris Saint-Germain in France and the Portland Thorns of the National Women's Soccer League. She helped the Thorns clinch the 2013 league championship with the game-winning goal and was subsequently named MVP of the championship game. Heath is expected to rejoin the Thorns and the USWNT after the Paris Saint-Germain season ends next month.
There is just one game left, and it’s the game we have been waiting for all season long. The championship is Saturday at 8 p.m., and my Western New York Flash will play the Portland Thorns. I’m feeling really proud of my team. We’ve got a lot of players from different walks of life and we have come together and become a really close-knit team over the course of this season. We all want the same thing: to win it all.
We showed that last weekend against Sky Blue FC in the semifinals. We knew it was going to be a challenging game. They tried to test us with a different formation, but we were able to adapt to their game plan and come out on top. Abby [Wambach] noticed right away that they had Christie Rampone playing out wide and were overloading Sam Kerr’s side. The coaching staff made adjustments at halftime and we took care of business to close the game out 2-0.
Throughout my career, I have always loved to perform in big moments. I love playing in the biggest games when everything is on the line. That’s the exciting part about the game! This was a big one and I was fortunate to score two goals. The first was the easier of the two -- I got on the end of an incredible cross from Katherine Reynolds. Then in the final minute, I dribbled through and scored again. It felt good to score, but it feels even better knowing my team is in the final.
My boyfriend, Brian, came up from New Jersey for the game, the first time he had made the trip to Rochester/Buffalo. We had the day after the game off, so we decided to go to Niagara Falls. Neither of us had been there and it was amazing. Definitely worth crossing off your bucket list!
Afterward it was back to business. The week has been loaded with media requests and other off-the-field obligations. Already it has been a long couple of days! It was nice to have a team dinner Tuesday night with everyone from the WNY Flash organization. The atmosphere at dinner was special as we enjoyed some great Italian food from Chef’s in Buffalo.
We’ve played the Portland Thorns twice already this season and tied both times. I missed the first game in Portland because I was in my best friend’s wedding; in the second matchup, both teams were coming off a really long stretch of games -- four in 11 days for us. But I’m confident we’re peaking at the right moment and we’ll be ready for them this time.
The Thorns definitely have a strong attack and some great players. We’re going to have to come out and fight until that final whistle. We are preparing for all of their players to be ready come game time. No matter who’s in there, we’re going to focus on ourselves and come out physical and feisty.
The WNY Flash organization has won three championships, all in different leagues. But to be the first team to win a NWSL championship is going to be a really special moment. With this group, in this year and throughout this journey -- after all the sacrifices and everything we’ve gone through together -- we just want it so bad.
My mentality doesn’t change one bit. I’ve been doing the mental and physical prep all season long. I’m not going home as a second-place winner. I’m going to do everything in my power to help my team come up big, and I’m ready for it.