For many players, new U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski symbolizes a fresh start for professionals on the cusp of contributing regularly for the national team. Lynn Williams is a leading member of that demographic.
Williams was called up by Andonovski for the first time in a year and a half in November 2019 for Olympic qualifying games, a well-earned nod for a player who the second all-time leading scorer in NWSL history, and key starter for reigning champion North Carolina Courage.
Williams has made the most of her national team return, appearing in seven of the USWNT’s eight matches in 2020, starting in four and recording three goals and five assists along the way.
Williams starred at the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament, highlighted by her goal and two assists in the Concacaf Olympic qualifying final win against Canada.
“I feel like I have a new, fresh start, a new beginning, like a blank slate almost,” Williams said of he USWNT return. “I feel like Vlatko has been very open and transparent with me with what he wants, and just telling me to be myself and be free, do what’s natural, but also within the bounds of the system that he’s playing.”
Williams was not a part of the USWNT squad that won the 2019 World Cup, an absence that highlights the difficult challenge of representing the world’s most dominant country in women’s soccer. Often finding herself behind in the pecking order of attackers that includes the likes of Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Carli Lloyd, and others, Williams was unable to catch the eyes of former head coach Jill Ellis.
After only playing in one game for the Stars and Stripes in 2018, she received word while training on her own that U.S. Soccer would no longer treat her as an allocation player, meaning U.S. Soccer would no longer be accountable for paying her salary. This was an early indication she would make the World Cup roster a year later.
“I just started crying,” Williams told The Equalizer. “I took a moment to regroup myself, and I’ve never run faster in my life. After that, I put it behind me and thought, you know what, I do this because I love it and I’m not going to feel sorry for myself anymore.”
The decision to not bring Williams to France was surprising at first glance. Williams is only behind Sam Kerr on the all-time NWSL goal scoring list and has more goals in less games than superstars like Christine Sinclair and Jessica McDonald. She is also near the top of the leaderboards in all-time assists.
Her ability was on display in the recent NWSL Challenge Cup. Starting for the North Carolina Courage at striker, Williams flew by defenders with ease. She ended the competition with three goals, tied with only Rachel Daly and Shea Groom. Both Daly and Groom also played in more games than Williams, whose Courage squad was upset in the quarterfinal round while the Houston Dash won the tournament.
If there is a criticism for her game, it could that she could be even more clinical with her chances. She had 23 shots in the Challenge Cup compared to Daly’s 14. The Courage juggernaut generates countless chances, and sometimes those chances go to waste.
Still, her success at the club level is almost unrivaled. Williams has guided the Courage to three NWSL Shield awards and two NWSL Champions trophies since 2017. She is also near the top of the Golden Boot race in multiple seasons.
What has become clear is that Williams did not let the disappointment of missing out on the 2019 Women’s World Cup derail her career.
Instead of being discouraged, Williams has used the World Cup snub as motivation. Here performances in Olympic qualifying, and at the SheBelieves Cup this year have sent a clear message to Andonovski that Williams is going to do everything she can to ensure that her name is written on the list of any major tournament roster Andonovski chooses in the future.