US international Tobin Heath withdraws from NWSL Challenge Cup over coronavirus concerns

Tobin Heath will not participate in the upcoming National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup, with the Portland Thorns standout and the United States’ international concerns about the coronavirus making their decision.

As NWSL teams release their final rosters for the tournament starting this weekend in Utah, Heath joins other American stars like Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh and Megan Rapinoe among the missing high-profile names at the event. .

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“Although I want to be on the field with my teammates doing what I love, due to the uncertainty and risks created by COVID-19, I have decided not to participate in the NWSL Challenge Cup,” Heath said in a statement. “I can’t even express how much I look forward to my next game in Providence Park.”

Heath, 32, made 13 appearances for Portland in 2019 and added three goals and three assists.

Originally, the final rosters were scheduled to be released on Monday, but were delayed until Tuesday after the entire Orlando Pride team was forced to withdraw from the Challenge Cup when six players and four staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.

A favorite to challenge two-time reigning NWSL champion North Carolina Courage in the month-long tournament marking the return of professional team sports in the United States, Portland still has ample star power at its disposal. Adrianna Franch, Lindsey Horan and Becky Sauerbrunn, winners of the US World Cup. They are included in the team’s final list, along with Canadian star Christine Sinclair, the all-time top scorer in international soccer.

The Thorns acquired Sauerbrunn from Utah Royals FC in the offseason.

All players had the right to decide whether or not to participate in the Challenge Cup, without penalty for not participating. And all players, regardless of whether their NWSL wages were paid by their club or by US Soccer as an assigned player, will receive their full wages.

Press nearly led Utah to the playoffs after returning from the World Cup a season ago, scoring eight goals in 14 games for the Royals. But the striker also cited concern about the ongoing pandemic over his decision.

“It is deeply painful to not be able to play the game I love and to observe the broader effects of the global pandemic on our league, sports and our world,” Press said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, given the uncertainty created by COVID-19, I must choose not to participate in this tournament. I know how lucky I am to be able to make this decision. I have enormous respect and gratitude for those who do not have the luxury of choosing to report to work. including our selfless and heroic first responders. I look forward to supporting my teammates during the tournament in Utah. “

Rapinoe was the only OL Reign player who decided not to participate in what will be that club’s first games since Olympique Lyonnais bought it. New head coach Farid Benstiti, who replaced current head coach of the United States national team Vlatko Andonovski, had previously said Rapinoe would skip the tournament.

Sky Blue announced earlier this week that Lloyd would miss the tournament with a knee injury, while Pugh will do so with a hip injury.

North Carolina will have its full complement of assigned American players at Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn and Samantha Mewis, as well as World Cup winner Jessica McDonald and forward Lynn Williams, a regular on the American team under Andonovski.