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USWNT coach explains why Lynn Williams hasn’t played at World Cup

Lynn Williams warms up during USWNT training ahead of the group-stage match against the Netherlands. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Lynn Williams is one of four field players who have not appeared yet for the U.S. women’s national team at the 2023 World Cup.

After what she described as a “devastating” snub in 2019, the 30-year-old forward made the World Cup roster for the first time in 2023. But she is still awaiting her first minutes, alongside fellow debutantes Kristie Mewis and Ashley Sanchez. Emily Sonnett, who featured on the 2019 championship squad, also has not taken the field.

The USWNT used just one substitute in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw against the Netherlands: Rose Lavelle, a regular starter in the midfield who is recovering from a knee injury. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski used the same starting lineup as he did in the opening match against Vietnam.

“Of course we thought about substitutes,” Andonovski told reporters after the match. “And Lynn was probably one of the first that would have been on if we needed to change something.

“But I thought that we had control of the game. And I thought that we were knocking on the door of scoring a goal. The players played well, we were around the goal the whole time. And I just didn’t want to disrupt the rhythm at that point.”

To Andonovski’s point, the USWNT did outshoot the Netherlands 18-5 in the draw. And after a shaky start, the attack stepped up in the second half, generating more and better chances.

“We just didn’t want to jeopardize anything,” he said of sticking with his lineup. “Because I thought all three of our forwards were very good today, dangerous, created opportunities.”

Yet the trio — Alex Morgan, Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman — did not make an impact on the scoresheet. While Smith finished with two goals and one assist in the 3-0 opening win against Vietnam, she did not have any goal involvements against the Netherlands. And Morgan and Rodman both looked uncomfortable at times in the run of play.

That made Williams’ absence stand out more than that of Mewis, Sanchez or Sonnett. Her fellow forwards Megan Rapinoe and Alyssa Thompson, both of whom came off the bench against Vietnam, also could have provided a shake-up on the frontline. But Williams brings speed and an unmatched defensive skill set — plus 10 goals scored across all competitions so far this year, second only to Smith (12) among USWNT forwards.

The lone USWNT goal against the Netherlands came from two midfielders: Lavelle sliced a corner kick into the box, and Lindsey Horan headed the ball into the net.