Well, we asked for new players and we got them. Jill Ellis gave Casey Short and Andi Sullivan their first starts for the senior WNT tonight, putting them in a 3-5-2 with Allie Long in the back three.
Ellis put Ashlyn Harris, Sam Mewis, Kelley O’Hara, Lynn Williams, Abby Dahlekmper, Ashley Hatch, and Christen Press on her sub list for a total of 18.
The six players who didn’t dress for this game by position were Jane Campbell, Arin Gilliland, Merritt Mathias, Danielle Colaprico, Shea Groom, and Kealia Ohai. Some of them will probably get their shot later, in the second friendly against Switzerland on October 23.
As for this game, it was a very experimental lineup from Ellis. She had Allie Long sitting between Sauerbrunn and Sonnett, using her to start the ball out of the back, mostly through Andi Sullivan, with Casey Short and Tobin Heath as her wide wingers.
The United States controlled most of the first half; Switzerland very rarely got out of their defensive third after the first 15 or 20 minutes. Sullivan was impressive in her first-ever start, though she may have benefited from some lax pressure by Switzerland in the midfield. Still, she was efficient on the ball and only got overrun a few times, something you’d expect from a college player still coming up to the pace of international play. Her vision to pick out open channels and runners was good, like in the 12’ when she sprang Morgan Brian forward with a nice pass into space.
Unfortunately if the ball was moving well in the center of the pitch thanks to Sullivan, it wasn’t getting the same careful attention on the wings. Tobin Heath managed to penetrate along the right easily enough, but her service was lacking. Casey Short needed to get engaged a lot more, and when she did, her service was worse than Heath’s. Of course it was her first 45 minutes for the WNT, and she managed to get around defenders a few times, but with Heath lacking on the right, more presence on the left from Short was sorely needed.
There was a dicey moment in the 16’ when Switzerland almost managed to hit a fast ball into US territory and split Long and Sauerbrunn, but they converged and shut down the attack. There was another one in the 30’ when Naeher played a short ball to Sonnett, who promptly made an awful turnover right in front of the 18. Naeher was forced to tip a hard shot from Aigbogun over the bar to keep the score at 0-0.
The US really should have emerged from that half with at least one goal, if not two, but between the bad service from wide, lack of runners into the box (looking at you Lloyd), and some bad turnovers from Horan, shots were limited to efforts that went directly at the keeper.
Things changed up in a hurry in the second half. Christen Press came in for Lindsey Horan while Lynn Williams came in for Emily Sonnett. Short moved back into the defensive three and Dunn dropped into the 10 role, allowing Press to go up top. It was Williams’ debut for the WNT and she made the most of it, scoring just 51 seconds into the half, the fastest USA debut goal ever, to make it 1-0.
It didn’t stop there. Lloyd took a shot a few minutes later that had to be parried aside, then Williams came through again in the 59’, pressuring the GK Thalmann and nearly deflecting her long kick back into the goal. Then Crystal Dunn got ahold of the ball, as she had been doing all night, and threaded it nicely for Heath, who slipped it under Thalmann with a well-placed shot into the side netting, making it 2-0.
Kelley O’Hara entered in the 63’ for Lloyd, with O’Hara moving into right midfield and Heath moving inside. She also made a pretty immediate impact, coordinating with Williams in the 69’ as she made a fantastic short run in the box. Williams slipped her the ball and O’Hara passed on the favor for Press, who scored to make it 3-0.
Abby Dahlkemper came in for Allie Long in the 72’ in a like-for-like sub, then Ashley Hatch in the 75’ for Heath. Hatch went right, pushing O’Hara left. Sam Mewis came in for Andi Sullivan, also in a like-for-like, and then promptly scored with her first touch in the 76’ as Press pounced on a ball in the box and delivered it nicely for Mewis’ head, making it 4-0.
There were a couple of long balls over the top for Press after that; Press managed to bring a lot them down under pressure and look for the shot, but she was better when she had help in the form of Williams and Dunn. Williams was clearly having fun on her debut, several times burning Swiss players with speed. Dunn was everywhere as well, and though she didn’t look like a natural sitting under the forwards as a 10, she made the most of it and acted as a great engine driving a lot of the offense, a similar role to what she did for the Washington Spirit this season.
The game ended at 4-0. It must be noted that Switzerland was without several key names: Ramona Bachmann, Ana Maria Crnogorcevic, and Lara Dickenmann. Sullivan had a great game, but was also not operating under a ton of pressure. The back three could have gotten burned a few times but for Switzerland not managing to hit the counter at speed. But at the same time, it was a good way to start integrating some of the new players. Tonight, between Short, Sullivan, Hatch, Dahlkemper, and Williams, five different players got their first caps for the WNT. Despite the new formation and the six substitutions and lots of people in new positions, they still managed to look pretty fluid in the attack. That’s very promising, and deserves further consideration.
The United States will play Switzerland again on Sunday, October 23 at 1:45 PM ET in Minneapolis, Minn.