Portland Thorns and U.S. National Women’s Team star Tobin Heath was selected by Racing Louisville FC in the National Women’s Football League expansion draft, before the new Kentucky team joined the league for the 2021 season.
Heath joined the Thorns in their inaugural season in 2013 but has not appeared for the club this year, having opted out of the summer NWSL Challenge Cup and then signed next spring with Manchester United. She and her Manchester United teammate Christen Press (of the Utah Royals) were the two brand names Louisville kept for their last two picks when they aired November 12 on Twitch.
“We are delighted with all of you, and we will support you no matter what,” Leigh Nieves, chairman of the Louisville Lavender Legion supporter group, announced when the project aired.
Teams could protect up to 11 players from the draft, including two “allocated” players, national team players whose salaries are paid by US Soccer. Louisville could take an assigned player from the United States or two other unprotected players from each of the league’s eight teams. (The ninth, the Chicago Red Stars, led the way at the pass by swapping two players for Louisville in October.) Last week, the Thorns announced their protected roster, so Louisville could not have selected Canadian superstar Christine Sinclair. , scoring forces Lindsey Horan and Simone Charley, defensive stalwart Emily Menges, or last year’s top two draft picks, among others. Thorns ‘three goalkeepers were left unprotected, a move that has made some fans’ stomachs knot all week. U.S. National Team backup goaltender Adrianna Franch was certainly a draw, but far from the only one. Franch was injured for much of 2020, giving Thorn Britt Eckerstrom and Oregon state graduate Bella Bixby a chance to shine and grab Louisville’s attention.
The new team also selected former Thorns Caitlin Foord, an Australian whose rights were traded to Orlando last winter and who has since played in the national league in her home country and for Arsenal in England, and Michelle Betos, a veteran goalkeeper most recently with OL Reign. (See the 14 extension draft picks here.)
While there could still be more progress to be made, if Heath does indeed dress in lavender for Racing Louisville next season, she will be part of the Major League’s first team since Gerald Ford was president. Crazy sports city, known for its horse racing and male college hoops, Louisville has not had a top professional team since the Kentucky Colonels evaporated during the 1976 American Basketball merger. League with the NBA. (The Colonels’ Dispersal Project, incidentally, sent ABA All Star Maurice Lucas to Portland., where he joined Bill Walton on the Trail Blazers who made history next season.) Heath would also land in another progressive river town with major Lewis and Clark vibes, an ever-growing number of breweries and billboards that help keep the city weird. Louisville shared a summer in the spotlight with Portland, which has hosted some of the nation’s largest protests against police brutality and systemic racism.
The expansion plan is the latest reshuffle in the ever-changing Thorns roster, who saw big trades and surprise draft picks in January, signed U.S. Women’s National Team stars Becky Sauerbrunn (before the start of the 2020 season) and Crystal Dunn (just after the end), a lost his Australians to Europe and loaned players to Germany. and France.
The writer was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and asks you not to use Mitch McConnell as your city name pronunciation guide. He grew up in Alabama.