What Is This USWNT Player’s Deal: Lynn Williams
1:19 PM EDT on May 19, 2023
Welcome to What Is This USWNT Player's Deal, a recurring series in which Defector selects a name from the American players most likely to go to the Women's World Cup this summer and answers the question: What is this USWNT player’s deal?
If there is one thing that the U.S. Women's National Team has in multitudes, it is attacking talent. While there are questions about the best possible midfield trio for the side, and the defense is never going to make anyone's list for most exciting part of a lineup, the attackers are by and large a diverse group of stone-cold killers. Even with the devastating injury to Mallory Swanson, the team's most in-form player before she tore a tendon in a friendly against Ireland in April, USWNT manager Vlatko Andonovski will have to pick and choose which five or six or seven or, hell, eight attackers he wants to take with him to Australia and New Zealand in July.
One name that is, somehow, not written on the roster in permanent marker is that of Gotham FC striker Lynn Williams. The 29-year-old has always felt like a bit of an outsider to the national team scene, despite tearing it up domestically as the NWSL's top all-time American scorer. She's here now, though, playing at an exceedingly high level despite a hamstring injury that cost her all of the NWSL season last year, and her new team has been reaping the benefits that come with lining Williams up as your main attacking threat. Will Andonovski do the same this summer? And why, exactly, does Williams play so well for club while still being considered a fringe national team player? Let's dive in.
Who Does She Play For?
Though Williams made most of her mark playing for the North Carolina Courage from 2017 to 2021, she is now two teams removed from that era. First, in January of 2022, she was traded to the Kansas City Current, though she never got to play meaningful minutes for that team after a hamstring injury forced her to undergo surgery and cost her the entire 2022 season. That injury didn't stop Gotham FC from trading the second-overall pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft for Williams's services back in January, so that's where she plies her trade heading into the World Cup. And ply her trade she does: After scoring in her debut while wearing a splint on her arm—more on that in a bit—Williams has tallied four goals in seven league appearances for Gotham, good enough for a tie for second in the league, behind only Ashley Hatch's five.
The Lindsey Horan Magnifique Test refers to the following foolproof heuristic for determining whether or not a U.S. player is actually good or just good by our rosy American standards: Do fans tweet lovingly about them in their local language?
How Does She Play?
Williams's main skill is that she is able to do so many cool and productive things while moving at high speeds. She's one of the fastest players in the USWNT pool, and in the NWSL for that matter, but she doesn't play out of control at those speeds. She's also a good creator from the front; her 15 national team goals are accompanied by 11 assists.
Though she is not the most accurate of passers or the most technical of dribblers, a team can move the offense through her if there is less room to operate on the counter, where her speed becomes more valuable. She's probably better suited to a wing role on the national team against overwhelmed opposition for that reason, though she can easily play a more classical No. 9 role. Once slotted upfront, Williams can score, of course, whether it's from someone else's crosses and passes or simply by creating for herself with her superior pace and pinpoint finishing.
As an added bonus, she's also a hardworking presence when her team does not have the ball: Across the top eight competitions in the world, Williams ranks in the 99th percentile for every major defensive category for forwards over the last year. She's a great tackler for a striker, and also has an aerial presence, despite standing a decidedly average 5-foot-7 in height. Those numbers are a bit skewed with regards to small sample sizes, given that she has only played in a handful of games since returning from the hamstring injury, but they're indicative of a player not afraid to put her physical gifts to use in defense.
The Parental Recognition Index
The Parental Recognition Index is a holistic, objective metric that analyzes a player’s full array of skills and talents, distilling it all into a single number that corresponds to their ultimate potential and the likelihood that they will become a big enough star at the World Cup that one of your parents will send you a text message about them.
Though Williams was not called up to the 2019 World Cup roster, there is a chance that your parents might have heard of her. She has played in 52 games for the USWNT since her debut in October of 2016, and she's scored 15 goals in that time, perhaps none bigger than the team's second in the 2021 Olympics quarterfinal against the Netherlands.
However, her career on the national team has been anything but smooth, and the starts and stops there make her less recognizable than some of her marquee attacking teammates. That being said, if she does make the roster for the World Cup this time around, she should, in theory, be a key weapon for Andonovski, either in the starting lineup or, more likely, off the bench. Williams has the highest chance of anyone on the team of coming on as a substitute and immediately scoring a key goal, so I will say that there is a 39 percent chance that your mom will text you "lynnnn [heart emoji] [heart emoji] [laugh-crying emoji, for some reason]" this summer.
Show To Me A Cool Highlight
As promised above, here's the splint video:
How Does She Fit In With The U.S. Team?
In theory, on a team that took seven forwards to France for the 2019 World Cup, Williams should be able to find a spot to fit in with ease. In practice, however, that has usually been a harder task, first under Jill Ellis and now with Andonovski at the helm. Where do you slot Williams in? Is she your pure striker, and if so, where do you put Alex Morgan? If, instead, Williams is a winger, then you lose some of her most valuable skills out wide, but maybe that just makes her a luxury to have. After all, the USWNT will need to score goals and plenty of them, and having one of the best scorers in NWSL history—Williams has the most goals for an American in league history, and trails only Australia's Sam Kerr on the overall rankings—anywhere on the field is a boon.
Still, though, even after seven years in the national team pool, you would think that someone would have figured out how to best utilize Williams in big games. No one really has yet, which is a shame, because it leaves her as probably the best player in the current pool to never regularly feature as a prominent piece of the puzzle. With her current scorching form for Gotham FC, maybe this year will be different, but it would not be surprising to see another coach waste Williams' talent at a World Cup, either on the bench or, even worse, left back at home.
How Close Is She To The Hypothetical Best XI?
Williams is probably closer to missing out on Andonovski's roster picks for the World Cup than she is to the starting lineup, but that doesn't mean she isn't a good pick for a Best XI spot. The USWNT has a lot, and I mean a lot, of great attacking talent, even with Swanson's injury, and they all bring something different to the table. As Williams showcased at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, though, she can be inserted into the starting lineup at any time and create a win through sheer willpower and nose for goal.