When the training camp roster was announced for the U.S. WNT’s October friendlies against Switzerland, 11 new names appeared on the list, all with the possibility of earning their first cap. After eight days of intense training sessions and two big wins that featured nine goals by seven different players, six new players made their international debuts with two also adding a goal and etching their names in the WNT record books.
On Oct. 19 against Switzerland in Sandy, Utah, Abby Dahlkemper, Ashley Hatch, Casey Short, Andi Sullivan and Lynn Williams all earned their first cap. Four days later, on Oct. 23, Kealia Ohai joined them, making her first international appearance to conclude one of the most unique weeks ever for the WNT.
First cap: Andi Sullivan, Casey Short, Abby Dahlkemper, Lynn Williams and Ashley Hatch
“I’d say the whole group did remarkably well,” U.S. Women’s National Team head coach JillEllis said following the USA’s 5-1 win against Switzerland on Sunday, which capped the team’s October camp. “[The new players] were very coachable and very willing to embrace whatever we asked of them.”
For Williams and Ohai, two players who finished the 2016 NWSL season tied atop the league with 11 goals each, the past week will certainly be memorable. On Oct. 19, Williams entered as a second half substitute (she played the final 45 minutes) and scored 49 seconds into her first cap – a record for fastest goal scored in a debut. The record lasted just four days. On Oct. 23, Ohai entered the USA’s second match vs. Switzerland in the 82nd minute and scored after 48 seconds, thus setting a new record for fastest goal scored in a debut.
Before Ohai’s dream debut on Sunday, it was the Carli Lloyd show in Minneapolis. After shutting out Switzerland in the first leg of the two-game series, 4-0 in Utah, the Swiss got off to a better start in Minnesota, scoring in the seventh minute of the game to take the early lead.
Then Lloyd did her thing, scoring a spectacular goal from distance that would have been right at home in any EPL Goals of the Week highlight video.
Andi Sullivan got the ball in the midfield, took a few touches forward and passed it to Lloyd. Lloyd returned it to Sullivan with one touch, who quickly passed it forward to Kelley O’Hara. The triangular formation between the three players resulted in O’Hara giving one last pass to Lloyd who then advanced the ball about two yards before launching a lightning bolt into the upper right corner for one of the best finishes of her career. The goal tied the match at 1-1, and the USA would go on to add four more goals in the second half with Lloyd also bagging the game-winner.
“I think what I was really impressed with today was our ball movement in the final third,” Ellis said after the 5-1 win. “A lot of combinations created a lot of chances. The personnel in there today just gave us a lot of different types of options. I thought Carli was superb in the pocket in terms of coming off [their backline] and playing final passes.”
And when it came to Lloyd’s strike, Ellis had nothing but the ultimate praise for the goal that FOX Sports commentator Glenn Davis described as “hit with no regard for humanity.”
“Unreal,” Ellis said. “That was a cracker. It was a spectacular finish. And it’s not just about her finish, her play was good, her decisions-making, her passing. Her overall play was very, very good.”
The goal was also an exclamation mark for Lloyd who kicked off the year by winning the 2015 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year award back in January. The game on Sunday was the last of 2016 for her as she is set to get married early next month and will miss the USA’s friendlies vs.
Romania in November.
Lloyd finished the year with 17 goals, her second-best year for goals scored in her career and a team-leading mark. With 96 international goals, she is just four shy of becoming the sixth player in WNT history to reach the century mark. She has scored 33 goals in 34 games played since the Round of 16 at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Besides the excitement of new players and new records set on the field, the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium surely had a great time on Sunday evening. It had been 10 years since the WNT last played in Minnesota and the atmosphere did not disappoint, as the boisterous crowd of 23,400 fans set a new record for the largest to watch a U.S. game in the state.
You were unbelievable, Minneapolis! 23,400...What an atmosphere. Thank YOU! 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/3KQY2YAQn0— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) October 23, 2016
“It was fantastic,” Ellis said of the record-setting crowd. “We’re ecstatic about the turn out. I hadn’t personally been to Minneapolis before so to see this many people supporting soccer is outstanding. And this venue is a piece of art, it’s beautiful. To have more than 23,000 people supporting us…wow, it’s just great.”