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Five players earn first caps for USWNT

Andi Sullivan (19) enjoyed a strong debut for the senior U.S. team on Wednesday (Photo Courtesy

Andi Sullivan (19) enjoyed a strong debut for the senior U.S. team on Wednesday (Photo Courtesy

Preparation for the 2019 World Cup is officially underway. Jill Ellis called 11 uncapped players into camp ahead of friendlies against Switzerland, five of whom saw the field in Wednesday’s 4-0 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. But the match is also notable for Ellis trotting out a trio of center backs in a 3-5-2 setup. Not only was the formation an unusual one for the United States, but one of the center backs was Allie Long who had never played the position before at any level.

Judging such a shape is a difficult task in the aftermath of a 90-minute session in which the United States had the lion’s share of possession and then some. Long looked predictably awkward at times centering the back line which was occasionally susceptible to the counterattack. The weak link in the group was Emily Sonnett who rarely did anything productive on the ball and consistently turned it over including once that led to Switzerland’s best chance of the night. She was taken out at halftime and Becky Sauerbrunn moved from the left side to the right and Casey Short dropped from wing back to take Sauerbrunn’s place on the left side of the defense. Later in the second half Abby Dahlkemper replaced Long in a straight swap.

{BUSH: Examining the new faces in Jill Ellis’s USWNT camp}

Switzerland are ranked 15th and were without several of their best players including Ramona Bachmann. They were well organized and were down only 1-0 after an hour, but even with that and the caveat that key players were missing, the match showed yet again that there are precious few international opponents capable of giving the U.S. defense a stern challenge. If Ellis is serious about experimenting with the 3-5-2 and also with Long as part of it, I’d like to see her use it next spring during SheBelieves.

Now let’s take a look at the five players who made their senior international debuts on Wednesday, the most in a single match in more than 15 years.

Andi Sullivan: A Standford junior, Sullivan started alongside Morgan Brian at holding midfielder and the pair appeared to have instant chemistry. Sullivan showed patience and intelligence in distribution and an innate ability to stay composed with defenders in her personal space. The only thing lacking on Sullivan’s profile for the evening is that, like the 3-5-2, Switzerland did not do enough attacking to test her defensive mettle. That said, she and Brian were on song when it came to which one would stay home while the other went forward in the attack. U.S. fans should get themselves used to seeing Sullivan in the jersey.

Casey Short: One year removed from spending a season in Norway to regain her confidence, Short found herself with the starting nod in her debut. She spent the first half as the wing back on the left side before dropping in to play the left side of the defense of the 3-5-2. It was an even night for Short who sent in a few quality balls and showed herself as a strong one-v-one defender. However her game is probably best suited for a match in which she can zip up and down the flank which is just not something she was afforded too much opportunity to do against Switzerland.

Lynn Williams: The star of NWSL Championship week, Williams won her first cap as a halftime substitute and before a minute was up, had an international goal to go with the 14 she scored for the Flash this season—11 in the regular season and three more in the playoffs. The goal itself was mostly a product of a gross misplay by Swiss defender Caroline Abbe but credit to Williams for tracking the backpass and for not panicking on a breakaway that literally accounted for her first international touches. Williams later made the penultimate pass—the ones that don’t show up on the scoresheet—that put Kelley O’Hara in position to set up Christen Press’s goal and was also robbed of a second goal on a quality save from Gaelle Thalmann. Just like she showed in her second NWSL season there does not appear to be anything that phases Williams.

Abby Dahlkemper: Took Long’s place as the middle defender in the 3-5-2 and looked solid despite not having all that much to do. The match was already in the bag by then and a weary Swiss side had little to offer in terms of going forward. It would be nice to see Dahlkemper out there from the opening whistle on Sunday.

Ashley Hatch: Hatch also came in with the score heavily tilted in favor of the U.S. and did not make much of an impression—at least on me. Note that not making an impression is better than playing poorly or making mistakes. She’ll no doubt get more opportunities to show what she has.


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