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Andi Sullivan hoping to establish herself as USWNT regular

(Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Andi Sullivan looks to be on the verge of becoming a mainstay on the U.S. women’s national soccer team.

In a 9-0 victory over Paraguay on Thursday, the midfielder scored her first two international goals for the USWNT, had an assist and was third in votes for the Woman of the Match.

The USWNT plays Paraguay again on Tuesday — an opportunity for Sullivan to put a period on the statement she made in Thursday’s game.

“I think this a great opportunity for me to try to weasel my way in here, and it’s tough, but I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Sullivan said. “I wouldn’t want it to be easy.”

The 25-year-old made the starting 11 in the first game as the lone central midfielder. U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski was satisfied with her performance and said she’ll have a similar role on Tuesday.

“The only difference is we’re going to ask her to be just a little bit more aggressive with her passing and look for more penetrating passes,” he said.

On Thursday, Sullivan was the USWNT’s second-best passer, connecting on 92 percent of her 54 passes. She was also the second-best shooter, hitting three of her four shots on target.

Sullivan is no rookie to international play. Getting her first cap with the senior team in 2016, she’s been on and off the rosters since. Injuries have been a problem, including a torn ACL in 2016, a torn meniscus in 2020 on the same knee and a quad injury in January 2021.

“It’s been quite a journey, but if you look around at every player here, every player has had injury struggles and good timing and bad timing and I think my story is no different, and it’s not over,” said Sullivan.

Andonovski made it clear, even before the first match against Paraguay, that Sullivan would get lots of playing time during the fall series, with both Julie Ertz and Lindsey Horan being sidelined by injuries. The USWNT coach says the level of skill and success he’s seen from his younger players in the NWSL this season is what inspired him call them into camp. Sullivan has three assists and a passing success rate of 82.9 per cent with the Washington Spirit.

The Spirit have had issues recently with the league’s COVID-19 protocols, that including four positive cases on the team. Washington was forced to forfeit their two latest games against Portland Thorns FC and OL Reign, and after Thursday’s game. Meanwhile, a power struggle between co-owners threatens to throw the club into further chaos.

“It’s rare that this environment is less stressful than my club environment, but that’s the case for me right now,” said Sullivan of the Spirit situation. “Just super excited to get into camp, great to have some great training, and get to play a game.”

Andonovski said he was “very well aware” of how the Washington situation might be affecting his players mentally, and said that coming to camp might have been the escape Sullivan and her Spirit teammates needed.

“We find that all three of them – Kelley [O’Hara], Andi and [Emily] Sonnett – to be in very good spirits,” he said. “They’re excited to be in camp.”

The USWNT’s second match against Paraguay is Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sullivan says the game is important for herself and the team in establishing good habits as they begin preparations for the 2023 FIFA World Cup, with qualifiers beginning later this year.