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Why Tobin Heath’s Injury Could Spoil Man UTD’s Season

When Manchester United announced that Tobin Heath would be sidelined for 10-12 weeks with an ankle injury sustained in training, a significant blow was dealt to both the Reds and the U.S. Women’s National Team.

With the forward now rendered out for the next three months of the FAWSL season and the SheBelieves Cup, replicating Heath’s impact will prove a daunting task for both teams. But what exactly makes Heath an irreplaceable asset, and how will her loss be felt around the league?

 

TOBIN HEATH HAS BEEN AN IMPACT PLAYER FROM THE BEGINNING

As early as her college days, Tobin Heath was a standout player. Committing to the University of North Carolina in her junior year of high school, the up-and-coming star would go on to leave a lasting mark on the college soccer world. In her freshman year alone, she made 23 appearances for the Tar Heels, scoring four goals and assisting nine. In her sophomore and junior year, she combined for ten goals and thirteen assists, before wrapping up her senior season with five goals and ten assists.

With Heath’s help, UNC won three NCAA Division I championships in 2006, 2008, and 2009, as well as four ACC titles. Throughout her four years in Chapel Hill, Heath played alongside several future USWNT teammates, including Allie Long, Ashlyn Harris, and Jessica McDonald. She was also named the first runner-up for the MAC Hermann Trophy, an award presented to college soccer’s top player.

Upon concluding her impressive college career, Heath was selected first overall in the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) draft by the Atlanta Beat. Unfortunately, Heath suffered an ankle injury in her third appearance with the team and missed the remainder of the season. She was later traded to Sky Blue FC, where she appeared in twelve matches for the team.

Upon the folding of the WPS, Heath spent time with the New York Fury and Paris Saint-Germain before finally landing with the Portland Thorns in 2013, where she quickly established herself as a franchise cornerstone.

 

A DOMINANT PLAYER FOR BOTH CLUB AND COUNTRY

In 70 appearances for the Thorns, Heath netted 13 goals and assisted another 21, all while leading Portland to two NWSL championships in 2013 and 2017 and an NWSL Shield in 2016. She also earned her fair share of individual awards, being named the NWSL Championship MVP in 2013 and recognized as a member of the NWSL Best XI in 2016, 2018, and 2019.

After Heath was left unprotected in the NWSL’s latest expansion draft, her rights were taken by Racing Louisville FC. Should she choose to leave Manchester United and return to the NWSL, she’ll be suiting up for the upstart franchise after a legendary stint with the Thorns. But though her NWSL achievements are impressive, they still pale in comparison to her accolades with the USWNT.

The 32-year-old has appeared in 169 matches for her country, in which she has scored 33 goals and logged 40 assists. Since making her debut with the USWNT in 2008, Heath has won two Olympic gold medals and two World Cup trophies, as well as two championship titles in the SheBelieves Cup. As a result of her efforts, she was named the US Soccer Female Athlete of the Year in 2016.

Needless to say, Tobin Heath has proven to be a valuable asset to any team fortunate enough to have her on their roster. This was especially evident when she joined Manchester United in September, her impact nearly instantaneous as she has notched four goals and two assists in only eight matches played.

As one can imagine, the news of Tobin Heath’s ankle injury took the soccer world by storm, leaving many to wonder not only who would step up to fill the void in United’s offense, but whether Heath’s injury would cost the club a chance at competing for a title.

Hopefully, some of these fears can be laid to rest following United’s handling of Everton last weekend, with goals from Christen Press and Ella Toone securing the 2-0 victory.

 

WHAT TOBIN HEATH BRINGS TO MAN UTD

United has relied on Heath’s quick thinking on and off the ball, as well as her ability to execute passes that lead to scoring opportunities, a skill she has only sharpened over the years. In eight appearances with the Red Devils, Heath boasts a 72.7% passing completion rate overall, completing 173 of 238 attempted passes.

Despite her ability to set up her teammates, it’s Heath shot which remains her most potent weapon. This year alone, she’s scored multiple jaw-dropping goals in a United uniform, some from beyond the eighteen.

It is likely that fellow United teammates Jess Sigsworth, Lauren James, Leah Galton, and Christen Press will shoulder the responsibility of accounting for Heath’s absence up top. Likewise, Press, Lynn Williams, Megan Rapinoe, and Carli Lloyd will be expected to take on a similar task during the SheBelieves Cup. Though the USWNT is full of elite talent, there is no player quite like Tobin Heath, and the pressure is on for Vlatko Adonovski as he searches for a placeholder.

 

THE IMPACT OF TOBIN HEATH’S INJURY ON THE FAWSL TITLE RACE

The domino effect of Heath’s injury certainly doesn’t end with the USWNT. In order for Manchester United to remain competitive in the FAWSL title race, Casey Stoney will also need someone to rise to the occasion… and fast. With a long road to recovery ahead, Heath is not expected to return to the pitch until April at the earliest. And though Manchester United has held onto their winning ways for now, they were recently leapfrogged by Chelsea for the top-spot in the league.

As the regular season progresses, Heath’s absence has the potential to drop United even further. But if they can at least keep pace with the other top FAWSL squads, Heath’s return could power the team on a closing sprint for the title.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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