Lynn Williams 2019 – scout report
As we enter the midway point of the NWSL season, the standings are starting to take shape with Portland Thorns battling it out with North Carolina Courage for first place. One point separates the two teams as they battle for the league title. Courage have scored 26 league goals with 13 goals coming courtesy of their strike duo Kristen Hamilton and Lynn Williams. The two have been influential core members of the squad. Williams, particularly, has impressed contributing four assists to go along with her six goals.
Williams will look to steer North Carolina Courage towards retaining their title with her all-round display. This scout report and tactical analysis aims to bring a better understanding of Williams’ playstyle, strengths, and qualities.
Hailing from Fresno, California, Williams’ is a hard-working number nine that scores goals. Having started 13 games this season, Williams has six goals and four assists making her an excellent partner to Jessica McDonald and Hamilton who has seven goals to her name. Consistency has been part of her game as the forward started in 22 of the 23 games she played in during the 2018 season for a total of 1,887 minutes. She scored 14 goals, coming in second place in the Golden Boot race. She also had five assists during the season.
The 26-year-old striker can be classified as a defensive forward. Diego Costa and Mario Mandzukic are two well-known defensive forwards that have been prolific in both their goal scoring and all-round performance. These types of forwards will typically look to use their physicality, aggression, and intelligence to pressurise the opposition defenders and bring their teammates into play. Williams’ core competency is her work rate on and off the ball and ability to use her teammates.
The Courage forward’s game is based around speed and playmaking. She typically looks to bring possession forward using her blistering pace and hold up play to allow her teammates to move into better goal scoring positions.
Tactical analysis – Forward transitions
Part of Williams’ role for the Courage is using her intelligence to transition possession within the final third. While she doesn’t frequently drop deep into midfield to collect possession, Williams will look to station herself in a slightly wider position to provide the final pass to her striker partner or any onrushing midfielders.
North Carolina Courage usually opt for a 4-4-2 system with overlapping full-backs. The two wide players usually interchange positions depending on the situation. They offer both wide and more central options allowing an overload in both areas. Any time the wide player closest to Williams’ chooses to remain central she moves out wide. This movement confuses defenders and with her speed and precision dribbling, most defenders struggle to keep her quiet.
As the graphics here indicate Williams is carrying the ball diagonally across the final third making a move towards the unoccupied right-wing area. This run has dragged two players across out of position putting the centre-backs in some disarray. The Courage are now engaged in a two v two situation with both striker and winger in advantageous positions over their markers.
Relying on her pace and crossing ability, Williams sends an accurate cross towards the centre-forward. Even if the resulting move did not end up in a goal, it showcased how her runs can influence the defending team’s movement.
Williams’ ability is not only limited to her transition ability but her dialogue with the midfield. The American striker often tries to bring her midfield teammates into play if space around her is limited to transition it forward on her own. Playing with two strikers means that Williams’ can already playoff her partner but using the extra player for support can relieve pressure and create space for her or her partner to use.
As the image above shows, Williams has dropped slightly deeper to receive a pass from Hamilton. This is an intentional move that looks to distract and bring focus onto her. Notice how four players surround her position as she collects the ball.
Williams’ quick feet and thinking allow her to play a wonderful through ball that not only splits the defensive line but plays in two of her teammates on the far side. The two runners are in advantageous positions and are afforded a blindsided run into the penalty area.
Not only did Williams’ directly interact with her striker partner, Hamilton, but she also allowed her attacking teammates to make off the ball runs into the area. Her through ball was perfectly weighted and her decoy drop into zone 14 paved the way for teammates to pounce. Having a striker with this sort of ability can create multiple goal-scoring opportunities making the teams potential to score much higher.
Movement is an incredibly important asset for any striker in modern football. Anticipating the trajectory and timing of the ball is vital towards a centre-forwards ability to score or assist. Williams is no different. With her speed, Williams is able to outplay defenders using her intelligent movement either in tandem with her striker partner or off the shoulder of defenders. She has also been a prolific playmaker assisting four times this season. Part of why she scores and assists is North Carolina Courage’s tactics of playing through the channels.
Looking at her heat map for the 2019 season, notice Williams’ positioning in the wider areas. She uses the channels more than other strikers and is helped by the Courage’s 4-2-2-2 system. In this formation, Debinha and McCall Zerboni provide support by playing through balls between the opposition centre-back and full-back. This is further backed by her 5.68 dribbles per 90. This means that Williams’ is fed possession in areas where she has a chance to run at the opposition defence.
As the graphics here show, O’Sullivan looks to press DiBernardo in centre midfield. Chicago Red Stars were looking to counter-attack but O’Sullivan’s press propelled the Courage to halt the opposition attack. Dispossessing DiBernardo during the transition allowed North Carolina to exploit spaces made from Chicago Red Stars disjointed backline.
As McDonald receives the ball, she plays Debinha through as she makes a quick run into the unoccupied space. The Courage took advantage of the unoccupied space in front of the centre-backs. Williams’ understanding of the situation allowed to take up a better position to run between the two defenders. Debinha’s first time through ball into space saw Williams use her incredible pace that creates a one v one situation against Alyssa Naeher.
Her assist record in the NWSL this season has been a pleasant surprise and is another by-product of her movement and intelligence. As we mentioned earlier, part of the Courage’s system is to play with two strikers. Whether they play a 4-4-2 or 4-2-2-2 formation, Williams is also surrounded by a strike partner in McDonald or Hamilton. 5.29 touches in the box per 90 indicate Williams preference to get on the ball in the penalty area to possibly shoot or pass to her closest teammate.
As this sequence of play indicates, Williams receives possession on the left channel looking to try and move it forward. Notice as she turns, she sees Hamilton in an advantageous position and has a run on her marker. Williams’ shift to the left sees her drag the three defenders as far away as possible before she sends a pass into her teammate.
Hamilton is caught by the defender but manages to turn and get her shot away scoring. However, the most important point to note is Williams’ quick thinking and intelligence created the best possible opportunity for Hamilton to score.
Through this analysis, one point is clear, Williams is an exceptionally talented and versatile striker. Being paired up with the likes of Hamilton or McDonald doesn’t change her style of play and she has continued to score and assist with freedom. Williams has a point to prove after not being selected for the World Cup and will want to part of the next squad.
With Alex Morgan on the wrong side of 30, the 26-year-old Williams has a chance to stake her claim as the number one striker for the United States Women’s National Team. However, as the Courage will look to stretch Portland Thorns all the way to the NWSL title, they will need their star striker firing on all cylinders and continuing her impressive all-round display.
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