American imports in the FA WSL – Who performed best in the Spring Series?

Nancy Frostick looks at how well Carli Lloyd, Crystal Dunn and Heather O’Reilly adapted to football in England during the Spring Series.

The introduction of the Spring Series brought about transfers that the FA and women’s football fans would scarcely have believed before the league got underway. With the shortened format offering players the perfect opportunity to get a taste of English football, Carli Lloyd, Crystal Dunn and Heather O’Reilly made the jump across the pond to chillier climes and Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal respectively. So with the Spring Series wrapped up, who adapted to life in England best?

The trio were put to effective use by their clubs with a total of 22 league appearances between them. In the WSL, O’Reilly and Dunn outshone their compatriots. Lloyd was limited to just three performances in a City shirt because of a crowded fixture schedule and a ban following her red card against Yeovil.

Dunn’s 11 appearances were a league-high along with her fellow Chelsea newbies, Ramona Bachmann and Maren Mjelde. She settled into the tactical demands of the WSL, harrying the opposition with her pace, and scored two league goals. The biggest compliment Dunn can take from the Spring Series is that she fed into an already effective Chelsea team bolstered by more top players without fuss or undue attention. She deserves greater praise for her role in the Blues’ successes this season than she has been afforded. There will be more to come as she’s under contract until 2018, so will have the opportunity to redirect the American media focus away from Lloyd and Alex Morgan.

Pedro Martinez Losa’s capture of O’Reilly was an inspired one. With two goals in eight league appearances, the World Cup winner was more often than not one of the standout players for the Gunners. She spurred an oft-misfiring squad to rediscover its drive and attacking flair. O’Reilly’s performance against Chelsea is just one match in which her dogged determination rescued some points. You can almost hear chants of ‘I believe that we will win’ following her up and down the left touchline – an admirable quality in the back-and-forth possession of the WSL. If I was Losa, I’d want to hang on to her for when things get back underway in September and it might be possible given her retirement from international football.

If we’re all honest, the fanfare that followed Lloyd drowned out what was a mixed few months in Manchester for the New Jersey native. Once everyone has calmed down about a Ballon D’Or, FIFA Best Player and World Cup winner pulling on a sky blue shirt, the conclusion of her performance is probably “good”. At times, Manchester City’s Lloyd was the USA’s Lloyd – the one that rises to the occasion and bags a goal in the FA Cup Final at Wembley or at a decisive moment in the Champions League. However, in the league, she looked like a player shoehorned into an established team. Whether it was the City system, the WSL itself or the waft of burgers from the pitch-side food van at Stoke Gifford, Lloyd seemed irked and slightly out of place. That red card at Yeovil – only one of two handed out in the entire league – speaks to her frustration at times during her spell in England.

Although Lloyd didn’t adapt as well as Dunn and O’Reilly, her achievements of silverware and a European semi-final are more than respectable results – but being the star of the show comes with elevated expectation. Will she be back to have another crack at league and European success? Who knows. Was she the best American on show in the Spring Series? No. Is she still the best player in the world? Almost certainly.

Follow Nancy on Twitter at @nancyfrostick

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