PORTLAND, Ore. – In the week leading up to the Portland Thorns FC 2015 season-opening match against the Boston Breakers, all Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath could talk about was her excitement to finally play in a home opener at Providence Park.
"I'm excited to see the crowd," Heath said before the match. "I'm excited to see our performance in the first game."
In the April 11 match, Heath finally got her wish, playing the full 90 minutes in the Thorns' decisive 4-1 victory over the visiting Breakers.
After finally experiencing that opening atmosphere, Heath praised both the Thorns faithful and her teammates for putting in an incredible performance.
"It was fantastic," she told the media. "I knew what to expect with the fans and it was kind of a perfect game for us. I thought the team looked really sharp for the first game and, getting four world class goals, it was a really fun night."
This season, the expectation is to bring home another trophy. Far from feeling that pressure, Heath thrives under it.
"I think any time I put on a Thorns jersey, obviously I'm thinking championship," she said. "I want to win a championship for this club. I think that's the bar we set for this club each year because that's the expectation."
A championship run, though, will hinge on the players who will remain with the club during this summer’s 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Heath says that her teammates are aware not only of those big expectations, but also of the opportunity that they've been given by this World Cup.
"We know what the road is ahead and we know what the expectation is of the club," she said. "I think it's great, if anything because of the time that we'll be missing at the World Cup. The players know that they have to step in and they're going to have to step in and they're going to have to play huge roles this season that maybe they wouldn't get the opportunity to play in another season."
"I think as players that are going to be leaving, we know that our time is valuable," she added. "We have to make the most of it. We also have that responsibility."
This season is Heath's third in Portland and she reflected back on her arrival in Portland, remembering how stunned she was by the city's reaction to the team.
"The scene's a little bit different here in Portland," she said. "People know what's going on. People know who we're going to play. People know when our games are. People know how we're doing. People know the faces on the team. That's what makes us feel like a part of the community and what makes our fans like a part of the community as well."
On the field, Heath has made an enormous impact with the club, striking the championship-winning free kick against the Western New York Flash in 2013 and earning herself the championship game MVP award for her stellar performance.
Thinking back on that goal, Heath smiles.
"Any time you come down to that point in the season, the championship game, you want to make your team successful in that moment," she said. "I think for me I was a little bit pissed off, because I had just gotten fouled right before that and I wanted the ball in that moment to do something special."
"The fact that we were able to get to the finals and win was just something incredible," she added. "Being able to give that to the fans here in this city was something special."
Still, even three seasons into her tenure with the Thorns, Heath can hardly believe that she gets to play her club soccer in front of so many raucous fans at Providence Park.
"I think every time I step out on the field and just hear the crowd, I guess it is kind of surprising to me," she said. "Each time I have to pinch myself a little and be like, 'This is real. This is awesome.'"