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The case for the most essential USWNT player: Lynn Williams

Lynn Williams returned to the USWNT in early 2023 after missing most of 2022 due to injury. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Each month in the leadup to the World Cup, Just Women’s Sports will make the case for one player as most essential to the success of the U.S. women’s national team in 2023. Next up: Lynn Williams.

The absence of Lynn Williams’ skillset from the USWNT roster in 2022 made her importance to the team that much clearer.

The defensive prowess she brings to the forward line should make her a lock for the World Cup. Indeed, coach Vlatko Andonovski has made clear his appreciation for the Williams since her return from the hamstring tear that sidelined her for most of last year.

“One of the things that Lynn is very special at, is she’s probably one of the best defenders from the attacking players. There is no hesitation when she goes into press, (she) drives the press, drives the intensity of the team, sets up a good rhythm,” USWNT manager Vlatko Andonovski said during the SheBelieves Cup in February.

In addition to Williams’ defensive abilities, she’s also shown off her scoring touch, notching her first goal of 2023 just seven minutes into her first game back with the team in January.

While the USWNT had more problems than just Williams’ absence in late 2022, the team nonetheless has looked much better with her back in the lineup.

The 29-year-old forward is still working her way back to full health, but that means she could be even more lethal as the team sets its eyes on another World Cup title.

“I love being back in this environment. It’s a tough environment to be in, as I’m sure everybody can imagine. I’m feeling more and more like myself every single day. I still think I have a bit more to feel like myself again,” she told The Athletic in February. “It’s always an honor to be here.”

After she was snubbed from the 2019 World Cup team, she was named to the Tokyo Olympic team and proved her worth in that tournament. During the team’s Olympic quarterfinal against the Netherlands, she notched a goal and an assist to help them go up 2-1 in a span of three minutes.

What makes her performance in Tokyo even more impressive is that Williams wasn’t one of the 18 players initially named to the roster. Rather, she was added later when the Olympics expanded their rosters to 22 players.

She has continued to prove her worth and her value to Andonovski’s squad since then. So this year, there should be no question about her place on the World Cup roster.

On top of her scoring abilities, she also can set up her teammates — for example, she once helped Christen Press send one home sans a boot. She’s up to 15 goals and 11 assists for the USWNT in her career, including 10 assists in 2020 and 2021.

On the club side, she is joining forces with Midge Purce in New York after a trade to Gotham FC, which means the two forwards could link up even better when playing for the USWNT.

Even still, Williams has proven how invaluable she is for the USWNT no matter who else is with her on the pitch. Her abilities to adapt will work well for the USWNT as they play against teams they haven’t played before in the World Cup, and teams that they have (looking at you, Netherlands).

That, and she’s also a built-in babysitting auntie for the team children, with Crystal Dunn, AD Franch and Alex Morgan all traveling with their kids.

“I just think it comes naturally,” Williams said, “and obviously Crystal is a good friend of mine and her baby is adorable. So it’s pretty easy to just take him and hold him all the time.”

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