The US Women’s National Team is set to start its run at a second straight World Cup title versus Thailand Tuesday in Group Stage F (3 p.m. EST, FOX). Four years after routing Japan 5-2 in the final in Canada, the Americans crossed the pond into France, looking for a 4th overall championship (1991, 1999 and 2015).
Two of the major prospective contributors are forward Tobin Heath and reserve striker Christen Press. Both scored against Mexico in a 3-0 victory in a friendly leadup to this month’s tournament. Heath, meanwhile, scored a decisive goal in the 54th minute versus Japan back in the 2015 final.
There are some rumors that the two are an item. Here’s what you need to know about that, as well as their respective backgrounds.
1. Despite the Rumors, Heath has Previously Professed Her Strong Christian Values
Neither Press nor Heath have come out and said that they are in a relationship. Regardless, it hasn’t stopped speculation, which is mostly focused on the thin proposition that the two left the USWNT at the same time in late 2018 for “a family commitment and a personal commitment, respectively,” according to a tweet by Caitlin Murray.
While not a definitive debunking of the rumor, Heath hails from a strong Christian upbringing. She has stated that she has deepened her faith since her college days at North Carolina.
While some prominent Christians have recently come out as gay, including presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin.
Heath discussed her faith with Belief Net:
I can’t even imagine going through life without my relationship with Jesus. So much of it is me relying on Him and me needing Him, not just in those crazy circumstances but in the day-to-day activities. During that time at the World Cup, it was a rollercoaster ride, but it was neat to just see His hand on that. It’s more than just winning or losing. There are so many relationships that go deeper than that. He has a plan in it all. You have to trust that.
2. Press & Heath are Involved in a Gender-Neutral Lifestlye Brand with Teammates Megan Rapinoe & Meghan Klingenberg
Looking to capitalize on the popularity and success stemming from the 2015 World Cup win, Press and Heath joined forces with Megan Rapinoe and Meghan Klingenberg on a gender-neutral lifestyle brand called Re-Inc.
According to the Washington Post, the brand was a response to pay equity issues the team had with Nike, U.S. Soccer, Fox Sports and the men’s national team.
Called Re-Inc, the brand founded by Klingenberg, Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press and Tobin Heath (the latter three are all members of this year’s U.S. Women’s National Team; Klingenberg is not) is designed to be gender-neutral and will highlight issues like equality and inclusivity.
There will be only one size chart — ranging from extra extra small to extra extra large, rather than separate sizing for men and women — and the first products will be beige T-shirts that are either cropped or oversized and read “liberté, égalité, defendez,” a play on the French motto. More clothing items are expected over the summer.
Press has experience working as representatives for the players union, including negotiating the collective-bargaining agreement that earned the team’s group licensing rights back from the U.S. Soccer Federation.
3: Press’ Family Pushed Her to Success
“While Press was playing youth soccer, mom Stacy read that soccer legend Pele would train every day by taking 100 shots with each foot. So that’s what Christen did in her backyard everyday. Christen has at times felt burdened by the pressures felt to succeed, but the drive and hunger to get to where she is can be traced back to her roots.”
4. Both Have Aggressive & Exciting Playing Styles
Heath’s approach on the field is precise and quick. In other words, don’t blink or she’ll sprint right by you and, for good measure, may just kick the ball between your legs.
Long-time United States teammate Abby Wambach likened Heath’s talents to those of Barcelona great Lionel Messi. Wambach discussed Heath’s speed with SoccerWire:
She’s just so crafty, so good with the ball at her feet. She has treally stepped up her game. With North Carolina she used to be role playing — now she’s leading. She just creates things. The way she plays commands so much attention.
Meanwhile, as Rosen states, the way Press “plays is not traditional for Team USA soccer. She is a playmaker, one who knows she can take over a game if given the space and opportunity. When these plays happen, the internet explodes, as Press has made a habit of making opposing defenders look silly.”
5. Both Were College Stars Before the USWNT
Christen is the Stanford all-time leader in points, goals, assists and shots. Her senior season, where she scored 26 goals in 26 games was one of the best in NCAA history. That year she was awarded the Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s equivalent of the Heisman, over current teammate Alex Morgan.
Despite scoring 71 goals during her time at Stanford, Press considers her time there a failure. She intended to win the national championship and earning an immediate international callup. The former didn’t happen, while the latter waited until 2015.
Heath officially suited up in for North Carolina in 2006, making her collegiate debut in November after competing with the U.S. U-20 National Team at the World Championships in Russia.
Heath helped lead UNC to three national championships in 2006, 2008 and 2009. She played in 21 games during her senior season, finishing first on the team in assists and was even featured in the program-produced documentary “Winning Isn’t Everything.
Those numbers led to Heath’s selection as the No. 1 overall pick by the Atlanta Beat in the 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer draft. Press was drafted to the Washington Freedom as the fourth overall pick in the 2011 WPS Draft.