HARRISON, NJ — Rose Lavelle is having quite the year. In January she was taken as the No. 1 overall pick in the NWSL College Draft, just a day before reporting to her first training camp with senior national team since June 2016. At the end of February, Lavelle both signed a contract with the Boston Breakers ahead of the NWSL preseason and was named to the USWNT’s SheBelieves Cup roster, one of only three uncapped players to make the cut. On Saturday, Lavelle made her international debut.
The 21-year-old midfielder had quite the debut. Lavelle earned her first start in her first cap, playing the full 90 minutes against a top 5 opponent in front of a sold out crowd of 26,500 fans at Red Bull Arena. Although the USWNT would drop the match 0-1 to England, Lavelle said the experience was amazing.
“[It was] such an awesome atmosphere to play in and obviously the biggest crowd I’ve played for, so that was really exciting. Wish we could have gotten a better result, but it was fun,” she said.
Not only did Lavelle finally make her international debut with the USWNT, but she stole the spotlight, showing fans and critics alike that she was worth the hype. In a performance by the USWNT that was at times lackluster, Lavelle used her speed along the flanks to beat defenders, generate plays and create opportunities on goal.
In fact, the best scoring opportunity of the night for the U.S. came from Lavelle in just the 19th minute when she sent in a shot from the top of the goal box that sent goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain sprawling to keep her off the scoresheet.
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) March 4, 2017
“That is a phenomenal answer I got tonight: Rose Lavelle,” head coach Jill Ellis said. “I thought she did great. It’s her first cap, and five minutes of nerves and then she settled into that game and she was one of the best players in the park, so that was fantastic.”
According to U.S. Soccer, Lavelle was the best player in the park, earning her the Woman of the Match honor. That feat is even more impressive considering the University of Wisconsin product–who joked that playing in Wisconsin conditioned her well for the below-freezing temperatures of the match–lined up at left wide mid where she lacks experience.
“Obviously in college I was used to playing center mid, so playing outside was a little outside of my comfort zone. But I think playing this game definitely made me feel a lot more comfortable and I found my groove as the game went on,” she said.
Although her attempt on goal is likely what many people will remember from her debut, the midfielder also shined in other more subtle ways. Her tenacity and footwork allowed her to maintain possession even when double teamed, and her connection with teammates Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh created some of the best passing sequences of the night.
“I think I’ve seen some pretty amazing first caps with a bunch of players, but Rose tonight, I was really impressed with her feet. I mean, she got out of some sticky situations; she almost got a goal in the first half,” said co-captain and defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who had the match ball tucked under arm. “This ball is going to be signed by the team to be given to her because a first cap with this team is something special.”