The soon-to-be U.S. women's national team star you really should know

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Lynn Williams didn’t take long to make an impact in her USWNT debut. (AP Photo)
Lynn Williams didn’t take long to make an impact in her USWNT debut. (AP Photo)

Remember the name.

Because Lynn Williams took just 50 seconds to score her first national team goal.

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She came on as a halftime substitute during the United States’ 4-0 friendly win over Switzerland on Wednesday in Sandy, Utah. And the striker immediately pressured a defender into a badly miss-hit back pass, stole it, ran at goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann and finished coolly for what turned out to be the winner.

It was some kind of start to a USA career for the 23-year-old, who stands just 5-foot-7. In a highly experimental game for head coach Jill Ellis, who fielded a three-woman back line and gave five players their debuts, the U.S. dominated but didn’t convert all of its possession and shots until Williams stepped into the fray.

But then her immediate impact was also sort of natural, considering the year Williams has had. She won the Golden Boot in the National Women’s Soccer League, scoring 11 goals in 19 games. She also recorded five assists and was given the league MVP award. But Williams didn’t really get started until the playoffs. Her Western New York Flash took their semifinal at the heavily favored Portland Thorns to extra time before she scored twice to win it. Then, in the final, her 124th-minute goal salvaged a penalty shootout for the Flash which they won, you guessed it, on account of Williams converting their fourth kick.

Williams’ emergence is all the more remarkable for how far she had to come. As an NWSL rookie in 2015, she scored four times in 17 appearances. But that she got to the pros at all was something of a miracle. Endless injury trouble has dogged her career and seemed to be savaging her chances. She had just two scholarship offers out of high school, and neither for big-time women’s soccer programs, per FourFourTwo USA.

At Pepperdine, she had meniscus and labrum surgery, a shattered elbow and a facial fracture. Her stats were good and she was a finalist for the Hermann Trophy as the college game’s best player. But she believes that she was perhaps only drafted by the Flash because its technical director had been a youth coach of hers in California.

Now, less than two years on, the speedy and industrious Williams is squarely in the national team’s crowded forward picture. And her poacher’s instinct was as much on show against Switzerland in her goal as it was in a later play, when she blocked goalkeeper Thalmann’s clearance on something of a hopeless play but almost forced the ball to carom back into Switzerland’s net.

All the same, the Americans ran up the score in the second half. In the 62nd minute, a cool finish from Tobin Heath on preparatory work by Crystal Dunn doubled the score.

Then, in the 69th minute, Williams played in Kelley O’Hara with a clever pass. She squared for Christen Press and the third U.S. goal.


Finally, in the 76th minute, Press dropped a great cross onto the streaking Sam Mewis, who scored with her first touch of the game.


 

The enduring image, however, will be of Lynn Williams arriving, improbably, on the international stage and scoring less than a minute in.

It could well be the first of many times.

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