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NWSL expansion club Racing Louisville FC selects the rights to the dynamic U.S. Women's National Team star

PMG FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tobin Heath, pictured in 2015, has been a mainstay for the Portland Thorns. The U.S. Women's National Team star was selected by Racing Louisville during Thursday's National Women's Soccer League expansion draft.The Portland Thorns lost one of the faces of their franchise on Thursday.

Racing Louisville FC selected the rights to winger Tobin Heath during the 2020 National Women's Soccer League expansion draft.

Heath, 32, has been with the Thorns since the NWSL formed in 2013 — and scored a decisive free-kick goal in Portland's championship victory that season. The U.S. Women's National Team winger currently is playing with Manchester City in England and did not play with Portland during the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup or the NWSL Fall Series.

While the departure of one of the most popular Thorns players will sting for supporters of the club, Portland has a strong group of attacking players — including recently acquired national team member Crystal Dunn and 2020 draft picks Sophia Smith and Morgan Weaver. Given that Heath did not play for Portland in 2020, her departure is not a significant hit to the Thorns roster for 2021.

"Tobin is a world-class player who has been an instrumental part of this club over the past eight seasons," said Gavin Wilkinson, Thorns general manager and president of soccer, in a club news release. "Only being able to protect two U.S. players made this an extremely difficult decision. Tobin will leave a lasting legacy here in Portland on this club and community, and we wish her well."

Heath's final game in a Thorns uniform was the 2019 NWSL semifinal loss to Chicago. During her time in Portland, she helped the Thorns to two league titles (2013, 2017) and one regular-season title (2016).

Heath had 12 goals and 24 assists in 70 regular-season appearances for the Thorns and three goals and one assist in nine playoff games. Those numbers don't adequately explain the impact that one of the most creative offensive players in women's soccer had in Portland.

"Tobin has been key to the identity and success of the Thorns," Thorns head coach Mark Parsons said. "I have had the privilege of seeing her perform from a front-row seat over the last five years, which has been a gift in itself. I am thankful for my time working with Tobin and know Portland will forever be grateful for the passion, commitment and extraordinary moments she gave us."

Racing Louisville selected Heath with the 13th of its 14 picks and followed by claiming the NWSL rights to U.S. Women's National Team forward Christen Press.

Louisville also selected former Thorns Caitlin Foord and Michele Betos.

Some speculated that the Thorns would lose one of their three talented goalkeepers to Louisville, but Racing selected Washington Spirit backup keeper Katie Lund along with Betos, who was with OL Reign.

NWSL teams can make trades beginning today. The 2021 college draft will take place in January.

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