Sam Mewis started two of the U.S. women's national team's three group-stage matches at this World Cup, but both times she came into the side in place of an injured player.
As the group stage transitions to the knockout phase, though, it might be time to rethink Mewis’s status as a reserve.
That’s how good the towering midfielder has been in those two games. She scored two goals against an overmatched Thailand side last week, but Thursday’s performance in a 2-0 win over Sweden was even better, despite her not getting on the scoresheet.
Mewis got involved early, getting a vital touch on Megan Rapinoe’s near-post corner kick in the third minute to send the ball into the middle of an open goal-mouth for Lindsey Horan to tap in.
From there, Mewis continued to stamp her authority on the game.
Mewis used her 5-foot-11 frame to physically dominate her Swedish counterparts, winning countless balls in the midfield on the ground and, especially, in the air.
Though her physical presence is a big part of her game, Mewis displayed much more than that on Thursday night in Le Havre.
Mewis controlled the game with her distribution, using her vision and ability to strike several long balls that cut through Sweden’s pressure, while also surging forward on runs of her own.
As midfield partner Lindsey Horan put it, Mewis "has this deceiving speed dribbling the ball. [It's] just something different."
It may not have looked like it, but Mewis said she had some nerves before her second start of the tournament.
"I was nervous before the game," Mewis said. "Realizing who my teammates are and who I’m surrounded with makes me a lot calmer, but there are moments where I get nervous."
Mewis didn't play nervous though, and her teammates realize what a special and versitile player she has become.
"She just offers something something elevated in that position," defender Becky Saurbrunn said. "She can break lines on the dribble, she can break lines with the pass and she’s got a shot."
The 26-year-old’s form gives U.S. manager Jill Ellis the proverbial problem that every coach wants to have.
Against Thailand, Mewis was drafted into the lineup in place of defender Sauerbrunn, with Julie Ertz moving back to defense.
On Thursday, Ertz was held out of the game with a minor hip injury, giving Mewis another chance that she took with both hands.
The USWNT will now face Spain in the last 16 and Ellis faces a real dilemma: Should she start Mewis in the knockout round? If so, who comes out?
If healthy, Ertz and Sauerbrunn are locks for the lineup so Ellis would likely be looking at two options to get Mewis in her lineup.
She could remove Rose Lavelle from the midfield but Ellis would be loathe to take such a decision, as she highly values the 24-year-old’s creativity and skill in the attacking third.
The other option would seem to be removing Abby Dahlkemper from central defense and sliding Ertz, who started at center back during the 2015 World Cup and still plays there at the club level, back to a position she knows well.
Whatever she chooses, Ellis has a real dilemma on her hands. The way Mewis has played this group stage, she may just force her manager to give her the call moving forward.