She hasn't had the easiest of 2016 seasons, but Carli Lloyd ended her year on a high note with a fantastic performance as the United States Women's National Team defeated Switzerland. The reigning FIFA Women's World Player of the Year was simply superb at US Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon, scoring two terrific goals while playing the trequartista position to perfection.
Lloyd was not the only woman to have a terrific outing on Sunday; Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams were both brilliant in attack, notching a goal and an assist respectively, while Christen Press both scored and assisted after coming on in the second half. The attacking brilliance was completed by Khealia Ohai, who scored just 48 seconds into her first cap, breaking teammate Lynn Williams' record for fastest goal on debut.
The USWNT got off to a flying start in front of 23,400 fans, a record crowd for the USWNT in the state of Minnesota, and should have opened the scoring within the opening five minutes. Tobin Heath and Andi Sullivan both forced early saves from Gaelle Thalmann, and it seemed merely a matter of time until the home side opened the scoring.
However, they were caught out at the back by a lightning-quick counter attack. A ball in behind left Lara Dickenmann in alone on goal, but she could not beat Ashlyn Harris, who palmed the ball back into the area. Unfortunately for the keeper, the ball fell to the feet of Sandrine Mauron, who managed the put it past her and give the Swiss a shock lead just seven minutes in.
Game lulls, fires back to life
After the goal, the game hit a bit of a lull. The previously raucous crowd fell silent, and the Yanks attack dulled. The chances which had peviously been flowing freely dried up until a moment of magic unlocked the Swiss defense.
In the 25th minute, Lloyd picked the ball up 35 yards out from goal and in space. She strode forward, had a look at goal, and uncorked a rocket which arrowed into the top corner. The strike was superb, and the entire stadium seemed as though it couldn't quite believe what had happened.
Moments later, Williams went close to putting the USWNT ahead with a terrific hit from distance. The chances didn't stop there, and before the first half drew to a close, Allie Long forced Thalmann into another good save and Dunn rattled the post with a close range effort. Yet, the hosts could not find a way to pull ahead.
Six minutes after the restart, the floodgates opened. Once again, it was Lloyd who proved the key. She scythed through midfield before hitting a pass with the outside of her foot which sent Press in behind. Her shot was blocked, and the rebound fell to Lloyd on the edge of the box. She made no mistake, and volleyed the ball into the back of the net.
Two minutes later, Press atoned for not finishing her earlier chance after a lovely Andi Sullivan ball over the top sent her in alone on goal. The Chicago Red Stars ace picked her head up, saw the keeper off her line, and lofted the ball over her and in to make it 3-1.
From there, chances were coming thick and fast for the USWNT. Williams went close twice before creating the fourth goal. She was played in behind by Lloyd, and the NWSL Golden Boot winner squared the ball for Dunn who had the simplest of finishes to make it 4-1.
Substitutions slow game down
After the fourth goal, the substitutions began to bother the flow of the game. Neither side was passing with the same rhythm, and it began falling to the crowd to create their own fun. Yet, if the USWNT had put away their catalogue of chances, they could have had eight or nine on the afternoon. Before Ohai scored in the 82nd minute, Press hit the bar and Lindsey Horan hit the post.
Yet, it took the substitute Ohai to provide one last moment of magic at US Bank. Just 48 seconds after coming onto the pitch to make her first USWNT appearance, the Houston Dash striker was found in the box by Christen Press. After creating space for herself, Ohai curled a shot inside the far post to complete a dream debut.
It was a terrific performance from the hosts, and a fitting way to close out their October fixtures. The USWNT will play Romania in a set of friendlies next month to close out 2016. Keep checking back with VAVEL USWNT for the latest coverage of Jill Ellis' aces.