Ashley Sanchez (Jesse Louie/Just Women's Sports)

Ashley Sanchez did exactly what U.S. women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski wanted from her in her first start with the team.

Reaching her fourth cap with the U.S. in a 5-0 win over New Zealand in the SheBelieves Cup, Sanchez brought the creativity they feared they might lose with midfielder Rose Lavelle sidelined with an injury.

“We needed Rose Lavelle type of actions on the field, and that’s what Ashley Sanchez gave us,” Andonovski said.

Lavelle, usually playing in the 10, is known for her creativity on the ball and ability to dance around defenders. Against New Zealand, Sanchez turned into pockets and consistently got past the first defender to take her team into the attacking third.

“She was the one that actually brought lines on the dribble, penetrated on the dribble and passed the ball in the next zone,” the coach said. “Very happy with her performance, and I’m glad that she did some things that were actually brave.”

Sanchez’s footwork was among the most impressive parts of her performance, the highlight being her roulette on the left sideline, which was ultimately called out of bounds.

“I spoke a lot to her about being brave and being herself and she has special qualities. We just have to support her and be patient with her and she will be able to showcase,” Andonovski said.

Sanchez, 22, was subbed off in the 67th minute after the U.S. was already ahead 4-0. After failing to convert in a scoreless draw with the Czech Republic in the first game of the SheBelieves Cup, the USWNT found success in front of New Zealand’s goal mainly off of crosses.

Though Sanchez wasn’t directly involved with the USWNT’s goals, she contributed to the attack with balls driven across the box that matched perfectly with the timing of the forwards’ runs.

“The opportunities that we had when we came anywhere in or around the box, I thought we were very precise and were able to force own goals or even score nice goals as well,” Andonovski said.

“We definitely put them in an uncomfortable position by serving in some dangerous crosses,” said Ashley Hatch, Sanchez’s teammate with the Washington Spirit. Hatch scored the USWNT’s fourth goal following three first-half own goals by New Zealand.

Sanchez, an attacking midfielder, was joined in the middle of the park by Andi Sullivan at the six and Kristie Mewis at the eight. The three had good cohesion, and by the second half were finding effective angles and passing options for center backs Alana Cook and Tierna Davidson.

In her first start, Sanchez not only shined for her coach before the 2023 World Cup roster is named, but also for her family and friends at Dignity Health Tennis Center, just 30 miles from where she grew up in Monrovia, Calif.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.