Kealia Ohai has grown accustomed to amazing soccer feats from Carli Lloyd.
Teammates on the Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League, Ohai and Lloyd joined forces for the past two U.S. national team matches. Both stood out in Sunday’s 5-1 exhibition victory against Switzerland, played at U.S. Bank Stadium before an announced crowd of 23,400 — a record for women’s soccer in Minnesota.
Lloyd scored twice, including the game-winner in the second half. Ohai entered the game in the 82nd minute and scored 48 seconds later to set a national team record in her first cap (international match appearance).
“It was a perfect atmosphere for my first cap,” Ohai said. “I was just so honored to get to be on the field, and to score my first goal in my first cap was just unbelievable.”
She broke the record of 49 seconds set by teammate Lynn Williams against Switzerland just four days earlier and drew some ribbing.
“[Williams] goes, ‘You can have this one because I won the Golden Boot in the NWSL,’ ” Ohai said, adding, “We do have a little competition.”
That’s exactly what coach Jill Ellis envisioned when she brought up 11 players without national team experience. Ellis said watching Williams and then Ohai score goals in their first caps was both “a dream scenario” for the players and “for us, validating.” Ellis is evaluating the roster for a World Cup title defense in 2019.
Scoring a goal eased Ohai’s stress level after a rewarding yet taxing week of soccer growth.
“It’s so competitive here,” Ohai said. “That’s what I think makes this team the best team in the world. Every single practice, you’re competing for a jersey to play.”
Sunday marked Lloyd’s last action of 2016 as she will miss two November matches against Romania because of her upcoming wedding. But she leaves the team confident in the new additions.
“It’s about finding some hungry, younger players who are going to make a difference in 2019,” Lloyd said. “You can’t become complacent as a player in this environment because there’s going to be someone that is going to be ready to steal your spot at any moment.”
Lloyd, the 2015 FIFA Player of the Year, left no doubt about her ability. The captain got announced first and drew the loudest greeting. After the U.S. conceded a goal by Switzerland’s Sandrine Mauron in the seventh minute, Lloyd got the crowd going again.
She leveled the score 1-1 in the 25th minute on a blistering shot from 27 yards out, and fans, some decked out in red-white-and-blue clothing or sporting American flags, roared their support.
“I guess that one was just hit as good as it probably could have been hit,” Lloyd said.
Ohai thought Lloyd’s second goal was even better. Lloyd started the play with a pass off the outside of her right foot to Christen Press for a great scoring chance. When a Swiss defender knocked the ball loose toward Lloyd, she buried her 96th career goal for a 2-1 lead in the 51st minute.
The U.S. won 4-0 on Oct. 19 in Utah with all four goals coming in the second half. Goals Sunday from Lloyd, Press, Crystal Dunn and Ohai provided the U.S. another commanding second-half performance.