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What does Lynn Williams’ triumphant return mean for the USWNT?

Lynn Williams celebrates after scoring for the USWNT in her first match in 10 months. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Lynn Williams made a triumphant return for the U.S. women’s national team in Wednesday’s 4-0 win against New Zealand.

The 29-year-old forward had not played for the USWNT since last February, but she did not miss a step in her first game back. What does her return mean for the team as it prepares for the 2023 World Cup?

What had kept her off the roster?

In March 2022, Williams tore her hamstring in the Kansas City Current’s opening match of the NWSL Challenge Cup.

“The [doctors] said that my tendon has probably been hanging off slightly for the past couple of years and it was too much,” she said.

She spent the next 10 months working her way back from injury before she was named to the roster for the USWNT’s January trip to New Zealand.

How did she play vs. New Zealand?

While Williams started the match on the bench, she came on in the 67th minute for Mallory Swanson, who also shined in the win. Just seven minutes later, she headed a cross from Trinity Rodman past New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Nayler. The goal was the 15th of her career but her first since October 2021.

“It feels amazing, but I give it to my teammates — they’ve been there with me through the whole way and supporting me and being like, ‘You’ve got this, Lynn.’ So it feels incredible,” Williams told ESPN after the match.

What does her return mean for the USWNT?

With Williams’ return, the USWNT’s talented forward line gets even more crowded.

In 2022, Swanson, Alex Morgan and Sophia Smith featured most often in the starting lineup, with Megan Rapinoe, Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, Midge Purce and Alyssa Thompson as substitutes. And Catarina Macario and Christen Press are working their way back from injury, with both expected back in the next several months.

“It’s not easy to be a forward in the United States right now,” coach Vlatko Andonovski said last June. And that sentiment is only becoming truer.

Still, Williams provides a defensive presence on the forward line, which could make her a valuable addition to the roster. While she did not receive a roster spot for the 2019 World Cup under coach Jill Ellis, she fit well in Andonovski’s system after he took the helm.