Over the past month, Lynn Williams has catapulted to the upper echelons of professional women’s soccer.
From finishing the regular season as the National Women’s Soccer League’s Golden Boot winner and helping the Western New York Flash make the playoffs. To turning it up in the postseason, scoring a pair of extra-time goals to beat Portland Thorns FC in the semifinals. And capping it with last Sunday’s equalizer in extra time to force penalties, where the Flash beat the Washington Spirit for the NWSL crown.
“I’m still in a whirlwind,” Williams said. “I’m still at a loss for words about the championship. It’s just pretty hard to believe. We went from a team that everyone wrote off, but came back to win in dramatic fashion. I’m really proud of us.”
The good news kept pouring in, with her selection to the United States women’s senior national team announced the same day as her league MVP award. (Technically, Williams was told about her selection a week prior, but had to keep it a secret until U.S. Soccer made the official statement.)
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This week, the 23-year-old Fresno native and former Bullard High star will possibly receive her first cap for the U.S. with friendlies against Switzerland scheduled for Wednesday in Sandy, Utah, and Sunday in Minneapolis.
Williams knows it’s a huge honor being selected to the USWNT but admitted that to get to this point in her career, she had already let go of that national team dream.
I didn’t put expectations on myself. I just played. I never let the USWNT get to the front of my mind.
Lynn Williams, on how letting go of her national team dream helped make it a reality
Flashback to 2015 – the Flash were fighting for a playoff spot and the USWNT was beginning preparations for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. But life had other plans for Williams, who was playing with an injured right knee. With the Flash not reaching the postseason, Williams decided to return to California and underwent microfracture bio-cartilage surgery with Dr. Bert Mandelbaum in Santa Monica.
“I had always dreamed about being called up to national team camp, and when I was injured, seeing that friends were being called up – not just my idols, but some of my close friends – it was really hard on me,” Williams said.
“I’d be at home and say, ‘I can’t even prove myself. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a shot.’ ”
As she rehabilitated and returned to the NWSL this season, Williams reminded herself of her priorities.
“You don’t play soccer to be on the national team, you play because you love the game – and that’s what people saw this season,” she said. “I went back to loving the game. I had no expectations for myself.”
Lynn Williams scored six goals and added three assists in the Flash’s final six games of the 2016 NWSL season.
It was easier said than done.
“There was still a weight on my shoulders (to come back from injury and be successful), but I just went out and started enjoying the game.
“I just focused on that. I’m playing professional soccer for a living. How cool is that? This is what I do. Do you know how many people want to be in your shoes?” she said.
Today, Williams is in peak form entering her seventh straight month of play as she joins the USWNT.
I just put the aches and pains aside and work through it to do what I love.
Lynn Williams, on her superior season after undergoing knee surgery a year ago
“It’s a crazy life,” she said. “I’ve only been home maybe one or two days over the last seven months, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
International women’s soccer
U.S. vs. SWITZERLAND
- Wednesday: 6 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on ESPN2
- Sunday: 10:45 a.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Fox Sports 1