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Lynn Williams finally comes off USWNT bench for first World Cup start

Lynn Williams appeared in two of the USWNT's World Cup games as a substitute. (Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images)

After rolling out the same starting lineup for the first two group-stage matches, U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski made several changes Tuesday against Portugal: Rose Lavelle started at midfield, and Lynn Williams started at striker.

Former players and coaches had been calling on Andonovski to give Williams, in particular, more of an opportunity. The 30-year-old World Cup debutante did not play in either of the USWNT’s first two matches, even as a substitute. While Williams didn’t score in Tuesday’s 0-0 draw, she did record six of the team’s 17 shots, including a promising header in the 14th minute that was saved by Portugal goalkeeper Inês Pereira.

Carli Lloyd, the former USWNT captain turned Fox Sports analyst, had called for Andonovski to use Williams as a reserve in the second half of the 1-1 draw against Netherlands as the team’s offense stagnated.

“I would’ve liked to see Lynn Williams come in — I think she’s been having a really great NWSL run this season,” Lloyd said. “And sometimes making subs puts the other players on their toes a little bit — you’re coming off, the next person’s coming in and they’ve got to perform.”

Former USWNT midfielder Tobin Heath echoed that sentiment on her podcast, “The RE-CAP Show,” after the Netherlands match.

“Vlatko raved about Lynn Williams being the best 15-minute player he could put on this roster, and in that moment we needed a 15-minute player to come in,” Heath said.

Andonovski had said Williams likely would have been the first substitute used against the Netherlands, if he had opted to change things up. Instead, he used just one substitute, swapping Savannah DeMelo for Lavelle at halftime.

On Tuesday, he avoided at least that vein of criticism by starting Williams in place of 21-year-old Trinity Rodman — but it remains to be seen if the lineup will take that same shape in the Round of 16 after the team’s underwhelming performance against Portugal.