The U.S. women's soccer team has missed Tobin Heath's dynamism on the wing for much of this year, as she has been sidelined with a back injury since March.
The wait might not have to last much longer.
After spending the entire National Women's Soccer League season to date on the disabled list, the Basking Ridge, N.J., native was returned to the Portland Thorns' active roster on Monday.
It wasn't all that surprising a move, since Thorns head coach Mark Parsons told reporters in Portland last week that he expected Heath to be on the field in the playoffs. In order for that to happen, the Basking Ridge, N.J., native had to be added to the roster before Tuesday's NWSL roster freeze deadline.
But this is a surprise: the timeline for Heath's return to action could be shorter than Parsons let on.
A source close to the situation told the Inquirer and Daily News that Heath has already been fully cleared to practice, and is expected to see game action before the end of the regular season.
That means she will likely return to playing some time in September. And it just so happens that the women's national team has a training camp and two games against New Zealand in the middle of the month. If Heath is close to ready, it wouldn't be surprising if U.S. coach Jill Ellis calls her in, even if it's just to practice with the squad.
Heath recently spent some time rehabbing at the national team's training facilities in southern California. Her last appearance for the national team came in early March at the SheBelieves Cup.
In 2016, she won U.S. Soccer's Female Player of the Year award, recording six goals and eight assists in 22 games for the national team. At club level, she dished out 10 assists and was NWSL MVP runner-up as the Thorns compiled the league's best regular-season record.
This year, Portland is in second place in the standings, two points back of the North Carolina Courage.
Exactly how far away Heath is from being able to play in a game isn't known. Saturday's game against the Washington Spirit (3:30 p.m., Lifetime) is probably too soon. The Sept. 10 game at the Boston Breakers also seems unlikely, as it's a cross-country trip.