Carli Lloyd: “I’m not going to lie, it’s been really, really hard. But I think through that adversity, the players that stay positive through it and gut through it end up getting on the better side of things .”
Many things are relative.
Sky Blue FC finished the National Women’s Soccer League season in eighth place with a 5-14-5 mark and 20 points.
The did not qualify for the playoffs — again.
Now, that might not sound that impressive, but it was a marked improvement over the 2018, in which the New Jersey side finished dead last and compiled a 1-17-6 record and nine points.
“It’s honestly been night and day and it’s been a pleasure to be a part of this team,” said Sky Blue FC forward Carli Lloyd, who scored in the 3-2 season-finale loss to the North Carolina Courage Saturday night. “It’s been a rough stretch, I’m not going to lie, it’s been really, really hard. But I think through that adversity, the players that stay positive through it and gut through it end up getting on the better side of things. So, I’m really proud of this group. We fought to the end.”
Lloyd credited the improvement to the attitude of the players, which rarely wavered during some difficult stretches.
“From last year to this year I think we’ve got a good group of players,” she said. “Not just what they can do on the field, but I think they’re good people off the field and that’s ultimately what makes a good team. Having good people, having positive people, having players who are selfless that want to get better, want to do things for the team and we have that this year. We have really, really good rookies, we have humble rookies, we have experienced players.”
Despite falling to the defending NWSL champions, Lloyd felt Sky Blue acquitted itself well in Cary, N.C.
“I felt we did well, the first half I think we were forcing it a little bit, forcing that final ball,” she said. “We got stretched out at times and then the second half we regrouped and stayed really compact, and tried to really just play the ball quickly, one and two touch, get it from one side and go to the other.”
Much like the season, Sky Blue made a marked improvement over the final 45 minutes.
“I thought we were fantastic in the second half,” Lloyd said. “Just goes to show you the ability of this team. You know we had some players injured, we didn’t have a full depth on the bench, but players came on and made a difference. I’m proud of this group, we fought to the end and we gave it all we had.”
Lloyd, who missed a good chunk of the season due to playing for the world champion U.S. at the Women’s World Cup in France, scored her team-best eighth goal in 14 matches. She finished sixth in NWSL scoring.
The Delran, N.J. native found the net in the 26th minute to tie the score at 1-1 Beating the Courage defensive pressure, Raquel Rodriguez sent the ball forward to Lloyd, who fired a shot into the right-hand corner of the net.
“I remember making a run, I think I made a run wide,” she said. “I think Caprice [Dydasco] played a ball into Rocky and then Rocky found me, and I just trapped it. You know, I’ve been working on tons and tons of reps of just placing the ball into the net. Five years ago, or even a couple of years ago, I would have gotten that and tried to smash it as hard as I could. There are improvements, and you know for me it’s doing the easy thing, the easy thing is just to place it in there and the goalkeeper can’t get it.”