In (belated) honor of the two players who recently earned their first caps under new USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski, here’s a look at all the first caps of the USWNT since Jill Ellis became head coach in spring 2014.
After US Soccer abruptly fired Tom Sermanni after the April 6 friendly versus China, Jill Ellis was named interim head coach. She led the American squad to a 3-0 victory over China on April 10 and a 1-1 draw versus Canada on May 8. In that second game, played in Winnipeg, one of the 2015 Women’s World Cup venues, Ellis gave midfielder Allie Long her first senior cap, bringing the midfielder on as a second-half replacement for Morgan Brian.
Following the game versus Canada, “interim” was removed from Ellis’ title. No new players were capped as the team prepared for Women’s World Cup qualifying in fall 2014. But that December, Alyssa Naeher made her senior debut for the national team in December 2014, six years after winning the U-20 Women’s World Cup in South America and earning Golden Glove honors for the tournament.
Four women made their senior USWNT debut during the Victory Tour that followed the successful 2015 Women’s World Cup, all during the two-game series versus Brazil in October.
In the first game, played at the home of the Seattle Sounders, defender Jaelene Hinkle made her international debut in the second half, coming on for Kelley O’Hara. Hinkle became the first player from Texas Tech to play for the USWNT.
A few days later in Orlando, Stephanie McCaffrey, Emily Sonnett and Gina Lewandowski earned their first caps in the 3-1 win versus Brazil. In a match that featured the farewell performances of WWC champs Lori Chalupny and Lauren Holiday, Sonnett played the full 90 on the backline, McCaffrey came in at halftime for Tobin Heath and scored the third USA goal, and Lewandowski became the (then) oldest player to earn a first cap for the USWNT at the age of 30 years and six months. A few months later, Sonnett was selected by the Portland Thorns as the #1 overall pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft.
Jill Ellis kicked off preparations for the 2016 Olympics by giving a first cap to 17-year-old Mallory Pugh, marking the first time a player under 18 had earned a senior USWNT cap in nine years. Mallory Pugh subbed on in the 58th minute, replacing captain Alex Morgan (who was celebrating her 100th cap that game) and scored her first international goal to help the team defeat Ireland 5-0.
All the other first caps that year came after the Olympic tournament in Brazil. Jill Ellis capped seven players that fall, with five debuts coming in the October 19 friendly versus Switzerland. It was the first time that five players had earned their first USWNT caps in the same match in more than 15 years.
Stanford midfielder Andi Sullivan and Chicago Red Star defender Casey Short both started the match; Ashley Hatch, Abby Dahlkemper and Lynn Williams featured as second-half substitutes, with Williams scoring just 49 seconds into her international debut (a record at the time). The international debut and goal followed a breakout NWSL season for the Pepperdine alumna, as she had won both the Golden Boot and MVP awards and helped the Western NY Flash to its first NWSL championship title, scoring the last-gasp equalizer in extra time and converting her PK attempt in the ensuing shootout.
Just a few days later, Houston Dash captain Kealia Ohai made her senior debut in the second friendly versus Switzerland, and shaved a second off Williams’ record by netting her first international goals just 48 seconds after entering the game. Just four years before, Ohai had scored the game-winning goal in the 2012 U-20 Women’s World Cup final against Germany, playing alongside Crystal Dunn, Julie Ertz and Samantha Mewis.
The following month another member of the Western NY Flash champion team made her international debut — Jessica McDonald came on as a sub for club teammate Lynn Williams in the second half versus Romania on November 10. McDonald would not play for the USWNT for another two years after that first appearance, but ultimately earned a spot on the 2019 Women’s World Cup roster.
Rose Lavelle earned her first senior cap barely two months after she was selected by the Boston Breakers with the #1 overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft. She started against England in the SheBelieves Cup, playing the full 90 in below-freezing conditions and earning Player of the Match honors.
The following month, two more NWSL players made their international debuts — Megan Oyster on April 6 and goalkeeper Jane Campbell on April 9 — in the two-game friendly series versus Russia. Campbell’s first cap came on her club’s home field in Houston, during the the same month she made her NWSL debut.
NWSL defender Taylor Smith earned her first cap during the first-ever Tournament of Nations that summer. She started on the backline in the opening game against Australia, playing 76 minutes.
After making a one-time switch from the Mexican Football Federation to US Soccer, NWSL’s Sofia Huerta earned her first senior USWNT cap in the September friendly verus New Zealand in Colorado. She had trained with the team during the Tournament of Nations but was not eligible at the time to play a game for the USA.
The following month, McCall Zerboni was called in at the last-minute to replace the injured Mallory Pugh for the October 22 South Korea friendly at WakeMed Park in Cary, NC. When she came on to start the second half, Zerboni became the oldest player to earn her first USWNT cap (passing Gina Lewandowski) at the age of 30 years and 10 months. And she made her debut on her club home field.
The USWNT began 2018 with two more players making their international debut — striker Savannah McCaskill and defender Tierna Davidson. Davidson played the full 90 on the backline in the January friendly versus Denmark, and McCaskill came on as a second-half replacement for Andi Sullivan.
With that game, McCaskill became the first player from the University of South Carolina to play for the USWNT. And the still-at-Stanford Davidson went on to become the first player since Julie Foudy back in 1988 to play the full 90 in her first five international matches.
Three more young players saw their first caps in the April 8 friendly versus Mexico (a game that also featured Carli Lloyd’s 100th international goal) — defender Hailie Mace, midfielder Haley Hanson and defender Tegan McGrady.
That June NWSL veteran Merritt Mathias earned her first senior cap in the June 12 friendly versus China in Cleveland. And Chicago Red Stars midfielder Danielle Colaprico and collegian Emily Fox both made their international debuts against Portugal in the next-to-last friendly of 2018. They joined Alyssa Naeher and Allie Long as the only players under Jill Ellis to earn their first caps on foreign soil.
In 2019, only one player earned her first USWNT cap before the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and that was goalkeeper Adrianna Franch. At the age of 28, she became the oldest keeper to earn a first cap for the USWNT when she started against England at the SheBelieves Cup. The Americans drew England, 2-2. Franch is also the first player from Oklahoma State to play for the USWNT.
For the post-World Cup Victory Tour matches against Portugal, North Carolina Courage standout Kristen Hamilton was called in to replace injured WWC players. When she came on as a sub in the second half for Jessica McDonald, she became the 30th and final player to earn a first cap under Jill Ellis.