Carli Lloyd expects Tuesday night to be an emotional one for herself. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Carli Lloyd has been to the top of the world and back.
She has won two Women’s World Cups.
She is the only player on this planet to have scoring for the winning side in back-to-back gold-medal winning teams in the Summer Olympics.
Add 315 international appearances and 134 goals and we’re still only scratching the surface of a remarkable career that will come to a close against the Korea Republic in St. Paul, Minn. Tuesday night.
Lloyd admitted that her “emotions are going to flow, obviously” in front of family, friends and an adoring public at Allianz Field.
“I know when I play this game it’s going to be really hard to hold back the tears,” she said. “It’s going to be hard to get on the mic after the game.”
The 39-year-old forward from Delran, N.J. has been the most focused player on the USWNT the past 14 years, wearing imaginary blinders and trying to find ways to score goals and way for the side to win. Lloyd, who has kept her emotions to herself during that time, said that the world might see a different person Tuesday night.
“I’ve sort of been this player where I haven’t let my mind go to feeling tired or feeling burned out, or wanting to hang up my boots,” she said during a Monday Zoom media conference call. “I’m at this stage and at this point in my career, and I don’t think any athlete ever thinks of the retirement word until it’s actually near. I’m going to let the emotions flow, the way they’re going to flow.
“I think I’ve been iced out Carli for so long and people have always seen that people haven’t seen the different side of me. But I’m going to savor it. I’m going to savor every moment. I think it’s going to be truly special, truly special for one last time to give it everything I have for this team for the crest for the country for the fans. I’m going to soak it all in, that’s for sure. No tunnel vision, tomorrow night. Going to soak every last possible minute out of it and enjoy it.”
Lloyd reflected on her first national team camp in 2004, as players battled for spots on the squad the Athens Summer Olympics. she was called in from the Under-21 team. As intense a player and person that she has been, Lloyd admitted it was an eye-opening experience and then some.
“To kind of get thrown into one of the most intense camps right before rosters being selected was a pretty big wake-up call,” she said. “I remember playing 5 v 5, which are often bloodbath with this team. Briana Scurry was on my team. The standard was just so high, that demand, I remember Briana screaming at me to get back. Those were my days where I didn’t really defend, and I wasn’t a two-way midfielder. So defending really wasn’t in my repertoire, at that moment. But I remember being so specific with where she actually wanted the ball play to her feet.
“It was a bit was an eye opener. At that point I knew I had a long way to go. This was the best of the best. It’s a weird thing. You put all your chips in, you take a risk. You do all this for the unknown. You do all this, not knowing how many years you’re going to have with this team, not knowing if you’re going to make World Cup teams, Olympic teams.
“It’s pretty crazy you know as I’m sort of dwindling down the hours here. I guess for some small percentage I’m starting to reflect and take things in, but everything that just kind of keeps coming to my mind is just how hard this environment is.
“You all see the first 10 minutes of a training session, the day before game you, watch us play 90-minute games once twice a month. But you don’t see everything that goes into this behind the scenes, having to be your ultimate best every single day. Having to evolve under different coaches in different positions in different areas of the game is so so hard to be here, and we all have had different journeys. different stories but I think what makes people great on this team is what makes great athletes great in their respective sports. It’s how hard their journeys. You have to really just embrace it and be able to persevere through anything that’s thrown your way.”
When she was growing up in New Jersey, Lloyd adored the USWNT. She watched the 1999 side capture the World Cup championship and had the team sign a poster at the Jefferson Cup tournament.
Lloyd admitted she never thought about being in that role.
“And now retiring, just like those that came before me did,” she said. “It’s pretty surreal.”
The turning point of Lloyd’s career came in 2007 when she grossly underachieved at the 2007 Women’s World Cup in China. Many observers and media pundits thought that she would be the key player on the squad, but she fell short.
Instead of bemoaning her fate, Lloyd decided to become a better player. She focused and decided to have “tunnel vision” in doing so. As it turned out, she became one of the best players in the world.
“I just said the other day at training, it’s very tiring to continue to prove people wrong,” she said. “It’s nice knowing that for 17 years, I’ve just been on that mission to be the best that I possibly can be. But it’s also amazing to have not only the focus that I had throughout my career, but to then have this different emotion that I can actually enjoy the stadiums. the fans. see the posters, see the jerseys. Just be in the moment.
“I’ve had the best of both worlds and I can’t look back and say, ‘I wish I did this, or I wish I focused a bit more.’ Sure, there were times where maybe my focus was too intense, but I gave it all I had. I think that’s what’s really special walking away from this is knowing that I did give it all I have.”
Lloyd, who still has at least a couple of games left with NJ/NY Gotham FC in the National Women Soccer League, added that she was not going to walk about from the game. She indicated that she would be back in some capacity, whether it as a fan or in another role.
“I can’t leave the game altogether,” she said. “This is a goodbye on the field, but this is not a goodbye for me in the soccer world. I want to continue to help grow the game. I want to continue to just form relationships and figure out how I can play a role in helping because I really believe that I can help. I can continue to share my wisdom. I really enjoy the people side of things I enjoy sort of talking to people about what it takes to get here and how hard it is and what you have to sacrifice and what you have to do.”
But those sacrifices will take a backseat to a more “normal” life with her husband, Brian. Lloyd has stated before that she wants to start a family.
“This next phase of mine I think is going to be no different,” she said. “I’m going to find something that I’m passionate about and do it to the best of my ability. One, eventually started family with my husband and want to be the best mom and strive to be the best wife that I possibly can be. Just going to be a little different. I’m not going to be feeling the pressure of having to perform and World Cup and Olympics. Now, I’ll just shift gears and do something different.”