Name one guy on the US men’s national team who dominates his opponents one-on-one as thoroughly as Tobin Heath does. Our men don’t show the skill, the confidence, nor the artistry.
Like all great attackers, Heath is dangerous and aggressive. She is loaded with technical skill and always looking to use it. For a defense, a great attacker is disorienting and untrustworthy. A team needs these players. They unbalance defenders, put them on their asses, and put asses in the seats.
Speaking of unbalanced: in April of 2016, the top-ranked US women played two friendlies against, 24th-ranked, Colombia. Rankings weren’t the only discrepancy — the pay was off. The employers of America’s national players, United States Soccer Federation, did not pay the men and women equal rates. The men received payment win, lose, or draw. The women got nothing if they lost, and a win or a draw got them significantly less than their male counterparts.
The women are more celebrated.
And players like Tobin Heath show more mastery of the craft than any man we put out there.
So, as they should, the women stood up for themselves.
They filed a wage-discrimination action against US Soccer with the federal government (see you in court, gentlemen), then went on TV, told the world they did it, got back on the field and absolutely trashed Colombia, 7-0. The suits upstairs needed to know the team was united and in a fighting mood. Heath’s run down the left side epitomized the message.
From the opening, she was given too much space. She is opportunistic, so she took it. The fake cross was dynamic and trustworthy, the cut was intelligent because the space, as usual, was behind the defender just beat. The next defender tried to muscle her way in, but Heath is strong, has wide shoulders, and knows how to use her body to keep the ball. She turned the corner, then immediately had another defender to deal with. It’s Jason Bourne stuff — knock down one, the next is coming, but that’s when Heath shows she’s special — the nutmeg.
A player who sees and executes the nutmeg in this situation has artistry, cleverness, and some pop to them. Unlike muscle or speed, these abstract qualities are equal across the sexes. It’s hard to qualify this type of genius, but, ironically enough, dollars and cents usually do it (see the salaries of Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar).
But enough about money.
Heath was not finished after the meg.
The last move was a scoop to avoid a fourth defender sliding in.
Heath’s pass to the top of the box was overcooked, missed her teammate, but the concentration, the quick decision-making, a lightning connection between her brain, eyes and foot - where did she get these skills?
Heath drove forward. The US threw a few attacks at the Japanese, and they held until quick combination play got the Americans through to the endline. They won a corner, and in it swung.
Japanese Translations by Miku Sugisawa
Heath stood at the halfway line waiting for the restart.
She put her foot on top of the ball, and then the past entered.
The past: Oh, man. What’s going on here?
Heath: Don’t worry.
The past: Don't worry? You're screwing this up.
Heath: We won’t.
The past: They’re only two behind now and they have momentum.
Heath: Two is a lot. Momentum is temporary.
The past: What about last time? We were winning, then they came back. It looked like this.
Heath: From now on, it’s not gonna!
The past: You missed your penalty last time. I think about that. I think about how good things were. Then you missed.
The referee blows the whistle.
Let’s move to a game that really did matter: the 2015 World Cup Final, USA vs Japan. A rematch of the 2011 Final, which Japan won on penalties. Throughout 2015’s game, the Japanese were careful with the ball and good at possession, but they moved predictably and they moved slow.
The US defense just bent, bent, funneled, trapped, then annihilated.
We were up 4-0 by the 20th minute.
In the 52nd though, Japan scored their second off a US own goal. Two players jumped up on a set play, and the ball went in off the American’s head.
Heath buried it.
Notice the step back she takes once the ball goes through the box and it's about to be won by a US player. That close to goal, when it’s that quick, one step away from the defender is all that’s necessary.
Her goal cut Japan across the bow.
No reliving the past.
USSF-U and your $.
5-2, the final.
The US women ruled the world again.