Tobin Heath Returns July 1; Who is Leaving the Portland Thorns?

Brian Blanco

The U.S. midfielder will rejoin the Thorns next week, but someone will have to leave to make way for her.

After a recent training, Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley informed media that the team was expecting Tobin Heath to arrive on July 1. As Heath was absolutely critical to the team's success at the end of last season and in the post-season, they are surely looking forward to having her back.

However, the Thorns already have the maximum 20 players on their roster, which means the Thorns will have to waive a player to make room for Heath.* Here's a look at who may end up on the outside looking in:

Katarina Tarr

Tarr received a red card in the Thorns' disastrous 4-1 loss to the Boston Breakers and then underwent a minor knee surgery that has kept her out ever since. Tarr's appearances for the Thorns have come at left back, where Stephanie Catley now seems to be the clear first choice, with Sarah Huffman, Nikki Marshall, and Rebecca Moros able to fill in if Catley is out. With such a limited roster, it may be a bit redundant to have so many players at that position and since Moros and Huffman have also made appearances in the midfield, giving them a certain versatility, Tarr seems like she may be the most likely to go.

Courtney Niemiec

As Niemiec has been Riley's first choice for most of the season, she seems like more of a long shot than Tarr to be waived, but a strong performance at right back by Sarah Huffman has probably put Niemeic's starting spot--and possibly her roster spot--in jeopardy. As at left back, the Thorns have a variety of options at right back without her. Along with Huffman, the Thorns can call on Moros or Emily Menges to fill in on the right.

Jackie Acevedo

The lone Mexican Allocated Player on the Thorns roster, Acevedo is an interesting case. She has made just two brief appearances for the Thorns, both back in April. In a recent match when both Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair were away on national team duty, Riley subbed in an amateur player rather than play Acevedo. She clearly hasn't impressed the coach. Though the NWSL roster rules place some restrictions on trading Allocated Players, they do not make any special mention of waiving them, so it seems the Thorns could simply let Acevedo go.

Obviously, we'll only know for sure who's on their way out when we hear the news from the Thorns, but there's no question we'll be saying goodbye to someone currently on the roster.

*In theory, the Thorns could trade a player for a draft pick or international slot, but no other team in the league appears to have room on their roster to bring in a new player without trading someone away. It looks as though waiving a player will be Portland's only option.

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