It wasn’t that long ago that Portland Thorns FC midfielder Tobin Heath and Seattle Reign FC midfielder Megan Rapinoe laughed at the thought of being pitted as Cascadia rivals, but now they are excited to finally face off against each other.
On Saturday evening, Heath and the Thorns travel up to the Starfire Complex in Washington to take on Rapinoe’s Reign in the final game of the NWSL regular season (8pm PT, Webstream).
It will be the first time since the duo spent a period playing in France for PSG and Lyon respectively that the USWNT regulars will be on opposite sides. And in their one clash in Europe, Rapinoe’s Lyon claimed a 3-0 win, so revenge may just be on the cards for Heath.
Even though Heath, 25, revealed that they would be “going at each other” during the game, it will be out of the professional respect that they hold for one another. Besides, the New Jersey girl knows that there is nothing sweeter than getting one over a close friend.
“We haven’t spoken yet, but it will be great to see her. It sounds like she is having a great time in Seattle and enjoying her time in NWSL,” said Heath, who scored two goals in seven appearances for PSG.
“Obviously she is from kind of around Portland and I’m not, so I didn’t really understand the whole territory between Seattle and Portland, but I have a better understanding now that I’ve been here.
“I think it’s a rivalry that starts by just the proximity, but also with the two club teams being very competitive. I think it is one that is going to be very positive for the league. But we’re going to be going at each other for the whole game if we’re on the same side or not. She is a quality player, so it’s always fun to play against her.”
After being allocated to the Thorns back in January, Heath delayed her arrival until July in order to experience playing in Europe. It proved to be a wise decision as she feels that she is a better all-rounded player, but it wouldn’t have gone as smoothly without Rapinoe being there for support.
“I think we kind of took care of each other and looked after each other a little bit,” explained Heath, who also had an American colleague at PSG in Colorado native Lindsey Horan.
“We were going through the same experiences, so it was nice to have somebody going through that who you could bounce questions off and even to see how you are doing being so far away from home. It was something that we both shared and both helped each other out, so it’s been a really good relationship.
“We didn’t help each other very much with our French, but we tried and got a good laugh out of it.”
As the build up to Saturday’s game continues, Heath knows that leaving Rapinoe with that bitter taste of defeat is about more than personal pride, it is about the Thorns finishing the regular season on a high.
“It’s our last regular season game and there is some weight on it because we do want to host our game in the playoffs. At the moment, the top four teams are all crunched together on points and anything can pretty much happen,” said Heath.
“But for us, it’s really important to host because our fans have been tremendous all season and we want to thank them. We want to bring it back here, so they can enjoy it and support us on our way to hopefully winning the championship.
Gareth Maher is a contributing writer to PortlandThornsFC.com. He is a frequent writer about soccer for the Irish Daily Mail in Dublin as well as ESPNFC.com.