Tobin Heath Named U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year

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An airborne Tobin Heath helps the US defeat Romania 5 - 1 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose on November 10, 2016. Photo by John Todd.

An airborne Tobin Heath helps the US defeat Romania 5 – 1 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose on November 10, 2016. Photo by John Todd.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Tobin Heath capped off what’s been an exceptional 2016 by being awarded the top honor for a member of the United States women’s national team and being named U.S. Soccer’s Female Athlete of the Year.

Heath, a dynamic midfielder, who captained her NWSL team, the Portland Thorns, to the NWSL Shield, made 10 assists in 22 games during the domestic season.

The New Jersey native also played 22 matches for the national team, netting six goals and eight assists for the Lady Yanks over the course of the calendar year. She was also one of the bright spots in what proved a disappointing Olympics for the heavily favored U.S.

In Brazil, she made two assists and exemplified the sporting, never-say-die attitude of the U.S. team at a time when other members of the squad were drawing criticism for their attitudes.

“This year was a difficult one for our team, but overall we played some great soccer so it’s humbling to be recognized individually,” Heath said in a statement. “I’m just proud to be in the country of all the great players that were nominated and all of the players that played for the USA this year.”

Heath, who spent a season in France with Paris Saint-Germain, has long been known for her flashy playing style and trickery on the ball. A wicked dribbler with a knack for nutmegging defenders and pulling out elasticos (a street soccer step involving a feint and sudden directional change) during matches, Heath has grown into an on-pitch leader this year.

The 28-year-old Heath captured 40 percent of the votes, beating out Crystal Dunn at 34 percent. The occasion marked the first time Heath had received the honor, despite having spent nine years representing the national team.

On Tuesday the USSF also announced that Ashley Sanchez had been named Young Female Player of the Year. The 17-year-old Sanchez captained the U.S. at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan and also featured at the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea, where she was the youngest player.

Sanchez, who’s already been recruited by UCLA, scored at both events, becoming the first U.S. player to do so in the same year.

Voters for the two awards consisted of coaches and staff from the nation team, the USSF board and athletic council, NWSL coaches, select college coaches, media members, and players on the women’s national team who appeared in 2015.

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