After a 4-0 win over the same opponent on Wednesday, a new-look United States women’s soccer team will go in search of another strong showing when taking on Switzerland once again in Minneapolis on Sunday. Head coach Jill Ellis named a squad featuring 11 uncapped players for the doubleheader and handed national team debuts to five of those in Utah on Wednesday. And, one in particular, made an immediate impact.
Having earned her chance by finishing top scorer in the National Women’s Soccer League in 2016, Lynn Williams took just 49 seconds in U.S. colors to find the back of the net. Seizing on an errant backpass, the Western New York Flash striker calmly slotted the ball past the goalkeeper to set the U.S. on the road to a comfortable win.
“When they first told us we were going in, some nerves come over your body," Williams said afterward. "But Carli [Lloyd] came up to me and said, 'Just connect your first pass and go from there.' And then Sam [Mewis] came up to me and said, 'Lynn, you don't have to be anything that you're not.'"
Mewis wrapped up the scoring with 14 minutes remaining, with Tobin Heath and Christen Press also getting on the scoresheet. In the second half, Williams was joined on the pitch by fellow debutants Ashley Hatch and Abby Dahlkemper, while 20-year-old midfielder Andi Sullivan and Chicago Red Stars defender Casey Short made their bows for the national team from the start. With so many fresh faces, the outcome was especially pleasing to Ellis.
“I thought they were fantastic," Ellis said. "As much as they were allowed to express themselves, they also fit within the system. I was very impressed. Andi's poise, her passing – I think she's mature beyond her years, in terms of her first time in, and she looked like she's been doing it for a while. Lynn, obviously a great finish. Her work rate, penetration, back to pressure – she's pretty multi-dimensional."
Wednesday’s match marked what appeared the dawn of a new era for the U.S. women’s team. After the disappointment of a quarterfinal exit at the Olympics, Ellis has not only brought in a host of new players but made clear that past performances for the national team will no longer be enough to ensure future selection.
The game also saw Ellis try out a new system. For the first time, she went for a 3-5-2 shape, with midfielder Allie Long lining up in the center of the three center backs.
"I think in our attacking we've been kind of rotating to get to that shape," Ellis said afterward. "I said, 'You know what, it's time for us to kind of, honestly, experiment and try new things.' What I like about Allie is she has a profile; she's good in the air, she's a very good communicator. And her passing gives us the ability to play those penetrating balls and keep possession and build."
Switzerland, which has now lost its three matches against the U.S. – all played since 2014 – will again be without its star player Ramona Bachmann on Sunday.