The United States took a while to get out of neutral with Switzerland last night, but eventually took them for a 4-0 ride. Here are five takeaways from the game to think about before the US plays Switzerland again this weekend.
1. Andi Sullivan has potential
Stanford’s Sullivan was the only college player to start for the night. Ashley Hatch from BYU subbed in late and Jane Campbell, also from Stanford, didn’t dress for the game. Sullivan started deep in the midfield and was the link between the defensive three-back and the rest of the team, a role she served pretty admirably in the first half with her solid one- and two-touch passing and field vision. There were a few moments where she needed to keep her head up and keep up with the speed of play, but considering it was her first senior team game ever, that’s forgivable. If she can continue to adjust, she’s certainly a contender to go into that deep-lying midfield role in the years to come. There’s a couple of names ahead of her on the list, though, so she’ll either need to prove she’s versatile enough to adapt to other roles or really hustle to prove she’s at least backup material.
2. Lynn Williams came to play
This has been a wild month for Lynn Williams. From last-minute heroics that forced penalty kicks to help the Western New York Flash win the 2016 NWSL championship, to opening scoring for the United States basically the moment her cleats touched the field, Williams has looked unstoppable recently. She’s a speedy forward who has both a deft touch and a great shot. She can assist or score and she can move just about anywhere in the front that she’s needed. That’s the kind of fluid versatility that Jill Ellis seems to favor, making it highly likely she’ll continue to get callups and continue to get worked into various experimental lineups.
3. Allie Long is more versatile than we thought
When lineups were released last night, there was a resounding “Jill, what what what are you doing” from most corners of the internet. She put out a 3-5-2 with Allie Long - yes that Allie Long - in the middle of her three-back. It was part of Ellis’ plan to have Long push up from the back behind the rest of her midfielders, so that it was almost a 2-6-2 or a 2-4-4 going forward. And Long was absolutely fine in the role. She started off with a couple of wobbles when Switzerland pressed back, but still managed to get back and cover with Sauerbrunn and Sonnett, and linked up really well with Sullivan. She was patient in holding in the back as she read the field and just generally executed the game plan really well. Does this plan work out if Switzerland isn’t without three of its best players, including the devilishly frustrating Ramona Bachmann? We might have to wait for a proper opponent to see.
4. Crystal Dunn: the 10 of everyone else’s nightmares?
With Lynn Williams and Christen Press on in the second half, Crystal Dunn dropped behind them to act as a 10. Crystal Dunn is not a 10. And yet she pulled off the 10 role pretty well, adapting her own game to the situation. She was still uniquely Dunn-ian (Dunn-like? Dunnish?) in that she wreaked havoc around the 18 with her tough-as-nails possession and her speed, opening up opportunities for the forwards as defenders attempted to swarm her, but it was effective as an offshoot of what Dunn has done for the Washington Spirit all season long. This is classic Dunn, grabbing the ball and ripping a shot, still managing to contain the ball after it ricochets off a defender, finding the pass while four different players are watching her.
5. This team still needs a real test
Jill Ellis had a hypothesis, so she tested it out. The first test was pretty positive. Now she has to replicate it under a variety of conditions. First up is the rematch against Switzerland, when hopefully Lara Dickenmann will be available for selection. Dickenmann had to bow out just before the first game; should she play in the second one, that’s a definite impediment if Ellis plans to push the 3-5-2 again. Switzerland will probably have a better time exploiting all the space left behind in that formation with Dickenmann around and could catch the United States with a goal. It would be nice to see Sullivan start again and get pressured more in the midfield. It might also be worth it to keep Dunn in that 10 spot instead of shifting her over as a response to subs. On the other hand, there are a lot of other players waiting to be capped who also deserve evaluation, like Dani Colaprico, Kealia Ohai, and Arin Gilliland. Guess you’ll just have to keep calling everyone in, Jill.