With Carli Lloyd ready to hang up her cleats Tuesday night, FrontRowSoccer.com is looking back at her fabulous career. Here is a story when she scored both goals in the USWNT’s 2-1 victory over Japan at the 2012 Olympics.

Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo celebrate winning gold medals at the 2012 Summer Games. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis
BigAppleSoccer.com Editor

LONDON — Carli Lloyd might not have started the Olympics for the United States on July 25, but she sure helped finished it with a flourish on Thursday night.

Relegated to the bench as part of a pre-Olympic strategy by coach Pia Sundhage, Lloyd recorded a brace in the final — a goal on either side of halftime — to help the Americans to their third consecutive Olympic gold medal behind a 2-1 triumph over Japan.

The win avenged a loss to the Japanese in last year’s Women’s World Cup final.

“Tonight I’m so proud of Carli, because she lost her starting job before the Olympics started,” U.S. striker Abby Wambach said. “She got it back due to an injury to Shannon Boxx, didn’t pout about it, was a great teammate and stayed professional, stayed true to what this team is about. And she scored two goals in the final of the Olympic Games.”

Like most of her teammates, Lloyd went through heart break during last year’s World Cup final, which the U.S. lost to Japan.

But the Rutgers University product had to endure some personal hardship this year when she was discovered she was being benched by Sundhage prior to the tournament. Sundhage felt the central midfield tandem of Shannon Boxx and Lauren Cheney was better equipped to handle the team’s playing style for this year’s competition.

That was a big comedown for the scoring hero of the 2008 Beijing gold medal match as the Delran, N.J. native scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Brazil.

Then Boxx went down with a hamstring injury in the opener, a 4-2 win over France. Lloyd was Sundhage’s first choice to replace her. She certainly did not disappoint, connecting for the game-winner in that encounter and adding a goal in the 3-0 first-round win over Colombia.

“I was on a mission this Olympics to prove everybody wrong and that’s what I did,” Lloyd said.

In fact, Sundhage apologized publicly to Lloyd during her most-match press conference.

“She has proven that I was wrong before the Olympics,” she said. “I am happy she was more clever than I was.”

Lloyd realized she was getting a unique opportunity, a second chance, and she did not want to stumble along the way.

“I knew I had a big job. Had to seize the moment,” she said. “I worked hard and when someone tells me I’m not good enough to start I’m going to prove them wrong. I was probably the most consistent player all tournament.”

With a healthy Boxx returning to the starting lineup on Wednesday, Lloyd was able to play a more of an attacking role and pushed further forward. That explained how well she penetrated for his first goal as she headed home Alex Morgan’s short feed from the left flank in the eighth minute.

“She’s good beating her player, serves in great balls,” Lloyd said.” I saw that one come and was hovering [in] the box and I just took off on a sprint and speed past Abby and md sure it went in.”

Lloyd added one of her patented long blasts from outside the penalty area — this one was 20 yards — past goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto in the 54th minute.

Lloyd said the “second goal was just doing what I do best, taking the space, dribbling at players. I just continued to dribble and found an open shot, took advantage of it.”

Lloyd, who is 30-years-old, realized she does not know how long she will be able to play with the national team.

“This is huge,” she said. “In a soccer player’s career, you just don’t know how many more Olympic opportunities you’re going to get. For me to have the second gold medal is a dream come true. Hopefully, I’ll continue and make another round, definitely with a World Cup win, another gold medal.”

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Guardian.com. Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of BigAppleSoccer.com. He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at Amazon.com.