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After injury, Lynn Williams worried if she ‘would ever get back’

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(Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

When Lynn Williams tore her hamstring in March 2022, the U.S. women’s national team forward worried if she would ever get back to peak form. Sixteen months later, she holds an integral role on the USWNT’s World Cup roster.

Looking back, though, she still remembers the anxiety that accompanied her recovery, she told USWNT teammate Kelley O’Hara.

In July 2023, she is training with her teammates in New Zealand in preparation for their World Cup opener at 9 p.m. ET on Friday against Vietnam. In July 2022, she was several months post-surgery and had not yet returned to training on her injured leg.

“In my head, I obviously knew I wanted to be here still,” she said. But she and her doctors worried: “Will you still be the same power athlete you were before? I’m a sprinter and the way I play the game is, I think, so powerful that they were nervous and I was nervous if I would ever get back to top speed. Would I ever get back to who I was?

“And so I think that in the back of my mind, I was always nervous about that.”

After missing the entire 2022 NWSL season with the injury, she made her comeback for the first USWNT camp in 2023, which included a week of training in New Zealand and two friendlies against the World Cup co-hosts. But while she had made it back to the pitch and to the national team, the camp environment brought with it a new set of nerves.

“You have to train your mind to be on at all times,” she said.

Even after she came off the bench to score against the Football Ferns in her first game back, she did not feel like she connected “a single pass,” telling her teammates: “I don’t think I’m playing well.”

“I was still nervous then, too,” said the Gotham FC forward. “But I liked that I was thrown into the fire, because I knew exactly how much I needed to go to get back to what I needed to get back to.”

Williams’ determination to return from injury echoed the determination she felt after she was left off the World Cup roster in 2019. While she has called the snub “devastating,” she used it as fuel.

“I jumped straight back into, how do I get back on the team?” she said. “If I crumble now, then I will never get back into that environment ever again. … I was devastated for myself but I can’t stay devastated for too long because then I’ll never end up where I want to be.”