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New call-ups continue excelling in USWNT’s 5-1 victory over Switzerland

Three Olympians scored for the USWNT, but it was the exceptional play by a couple of newly-capped players that have fans buzzing.

Kealia Ohai celebrates with teammates after scoring in her international debut.
Kealia Ohai celebrates with teammates after scoring in her international debut.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The United States women’s national team (USWNT) defeated 15th-ranked Switzerland for the second time in five days. With co-captain Carli Lloyd scoring a brace and goals by Christen Press, Crystal Dunn and Kealia Ohai, the USWNT ended Sunday’s match with a 5-1 score line.

The theme of this pair of friendlies was rebuilding the USWNT in preparation for the 2019 Women’s World Cup. That saw 11 uncapped players called into camp prior to the Switzerland matches, six of whom earned their first caps for the team.

Today NWSL Golden Boot runner-up Kealia Ohai received her first cap with the national team when she was subbed in for Crystal Dunn in the 71st minute. Much like the Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams, who scored the U.S.’s opening goal Wednesday night in her first 49 seconds on the field for the USWNT, Ohai scored in her international debut as well. However, it only took Ohai 48 seconds to score the U.S.’s final goal of the night, beating Williams’ record for fastest goal in an USWNT debut by one second.

Despite the impressive play from the newcomers, the match did not start off well for the USWNT. Despite an early attempt on goal by midfielder Tobin Heath, the Swiss quickly took advantage of the weakness of the U.S.’s 3-back. In just the 7th minute, Lara Dickenmann, who was unavailable for Switzerland on Wednesday because of an injury, put a shot on goal that forced USWNT goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to make a diving save. Harris’s deflection sent the ball back out into play, and Sandrine Mauron beat midfielder Kelley O’Hara to the ball, sending her shot past Harris to put the Swiss on the board first.

After some physical back-and-forth that saw two Swiss players—Mauron and Viola Calligaris—receive yellow cards, the momentum began shifting in the USWNT’s favor. Carli Lloyd started the game up top for the U.S., but shifted back to her usual position of attacking midfielder. While she tends to play a false 9 for the USWNT, she is better in the midfield and Crystal Dunn is better at forward. That shift seemed to be a difference maker as Carli Lloyd and Andi Sullivan combined in the 27th minute for the equalizer. Lloyd, in typical Lloyd fashion, found space to turn the ball and ripped off a rocket from 27 yards out and past Swiss goalkeeper Gaëlle Thalmann to tie the game, 1-1.

The second half went much more to the USWNT’s liking, with the USWNT scoring four unanswered goals in what resembled a training match for the USWNT more than an international competition. Part of that was because backup goalkeeper Stenia Michel subbed in for Thalmann at the start of the second half after Thalmann suffered what appeared to be a mild thigh injury in the first. Switzerland, despite being ranked 15th in the world, also hasn’t been playing high-ranking opponents often this year, and it showed in both their fitness and mental games once the U.S. took the lead.

Unsurprising to many fans, it was Carli Lloyd who gave the USWNT that lead early in the second half. Lloyd drove the ball down the center of the field before laying off to Christen Press, who attempted a shot only to have it blocked by a Swiss defender. Lloyd volleyed the deflection past Michel to put the USWNT up 2-1.

After Lloyd’s second goal, the USWNT’s scoring woes seemed to be at an end as the Swiss defense began losing shape and pressure. Just two minutes after Lloyd’s brace, Sullivan and Press connected for the U.S.’s third goal of the match after Sullivan chipped the field to send a perfect ball in to Press, who slipped past defenders and onto the ball. Michel was off her line and could only watch as Press’s shot sailed into the goal to give the USWNT a 3-1 lead.

In the 64th minute, Casey Short, in her second start and second cap with the USWNT, generated a scoring play when she stripped the Swiss of the ball, turned and played it to Carli Lloyd. Lloyd played the ball off to Williams, who moved the ball down the left flank before sending a cross in front of goal. Both Press and Dunn were in position to score, but Press let the ball roll past and Dunn tapped it into the back of the net.

After a series of second-half substitutions that saw Lindsey Horan sub in for Lloyd and Ohai sub in for Dunn, Horan drove the ball down the left flank before passing the ball off to Press. Press didn’t have a clear look on goal and played the ball off to Ohai. Ohai, in her international debut with the USWNT, received the ball, took a couple of touches and put the ball past Michel and into the bottom corner, 5-1 USA.

Hopefully for the future of the USWNT, Ohai, Williams and the other new call-ups who have performed well over the last two games will continue to do so. The team has seen newly-capped players impress in their debuts (see Stephanie McCaffrey for a recent example), only to fizzle out after a few matches. While Ohai really did not see enough time on the field to fully showcase her talent, Williams and midfielder Andi Sullivan impressed just as much in their second caps as they did in their first.

Williams may not have scored today, but she did record an assist while using her speed to generate a number of chances from her spot on the left flank. Sullivan played well both defensively and offensively in the midfield, and she provided solid distribution of balls to the forwards. She and Christen Press seemed to have a connection that could have resulted in more goals if the woodwork hadn’t gotten in Press’s way.

If these matches were truly about Jill Ellis finding the players who will be on the USWNT’s 2019 Women’s World Cup roster, then some of the veterans who were left at home, namely outside backs Ali Krieger and Meghan Klingenberg, should be nervous, especially if Ellis sticks with a 3-back formation. Forward Alex Morgan’s spot is more secure than that pair of OB’s, but Williams and Ohai are bringing competition for spots up top. They could present a quite pleasant problem for the USWNT: with Morgan, Press, Dunn, Pugh, Williams and Ohai in the USWNT player pool, which players do you start?

Only time will tell, but one thing’s for certain: the future of this USWNT is looking bright.

The USWNT will be back in action next month in a pair of international friendlies against Romania. The first match will be played on November 10 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California, and the second will be on November 13 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.