By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

It hardly was beginners’ luck for Casey Murphy on Saturday.

It was more like beginners’ skill for the 25-year-old goalkeeper who made a big splash in her U.S. women’s national team debut in the 3-0 friendly win over Australia at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia.

Murphy finished with eight saves, including several vital ones, when the Americans were nursing a one-goal lead midway through the match. It never hurts to have depth, especially after starter Alyssa Naeher suffered a knee injury during the Tokyo Olympics.

In case you were wondering, Murphy became the 25th keeper to earn a cap with the team and was the first goalie since Naeher to register a shutout in her first cap. Naeher accomplished that in a 7-0 triumph past Argentina in Brasilia, Brazil in December 2014.

“This was a this was a great experience for Casey,” U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “It could not get any better for her playing in front of great crowd, very, very loud, very stressful against some of the best forwards, obviously and one of the best forwards in the world.”

That forward was one Sam Kerr, who has proven to be one of the most lethal strikers on the planet for club and country.

Murphy started her showcase by parrying Kerr’s shot from distance from the Ballon d’Or nominee over the crossbar a little after the half-hour mark.

“What else we can ask for?” Andonovski asked. “She came out big she came out big in and helped us. It’s not just that she just helped us win but gave us confidence. She was great for the team; she was great for to backline. They felt very comfortable. I felt comfortable. Saying that. Even though this is the first cap for Casey, it’s going to be one of many.”

The former Rutgers University standout stoned Kerr again as she made a kick save with her left foot to deny the striker in the 45th minute.

“The last 10 minutes of the of the first half, we basically relied on Casey,” Andonovski said. “We needed her there. When we needed it the most, she came up huge. That was good for her’ gained a lot of confidence in second half. She just you owned it. Like I said, it gave a lot of confidence to the backline, gave a lot of confidence to the coaching staff, too. We were a little calmer at the point too.”

With the squad leaving several veteran players home, the USA used its youngest starting line-up since April 2018 and the first time since April of 2013 that all starters were under the age of 30.

The Americans had but a handful of training sessions had to acclimate themselves to one another. The onus was especially on communication between the backline and goalkeeper.

“Each of those practices were huge and we had to be super-detail oriented and focused and a lot of the work to was in the in our film sessions,” Murphy said. “We just knew we had to do everything we could and control what we could control leading up to the match even though it was a very short timeframe we had in preparation for the game.

“We did try out a few different styles and building out. If it didn’t work, we skipped it and moved on to something else. It was a lot of trial and error. Once we found something that was working then we would keep with it.”

Murphy didn’t show any nerves in her first start but admitted that belied what was going on inside her.

“Well, to be honest, I tried to play cool, but inside I was so excited,” she said. “I’ve been training for a very long time for this chance and this opportunity. I just want to make the most of it for the team and for our country.”

While praise was heaped on Murphy for her superb performance, the goalkeeper turned it around and gave some back to her young teammates.

“We knew it was going to be a tough opponent,” she said. “But the young players here stepped up big and especially all the older vets, too. They kind of helped us ease into the game. Their leadership was big. We’re happy with this result, but it’s just the start.”

Given that Andonovski wants to give as many newcomers as possible, it remains to be seen whether Murphy will get a second start against the Matildas at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, Australia. (4:05 a.m. ET on ESPN).

She certainly has earned another chance to frustrate the Aussies again.