Carli Lloyd, forever fixated on greatness, ends her brilliant USWNT career
Opinion: Goal the only thing missing from Carli Lloyd's final game with USWNT
It was a worthy send-off for the player who scored the game-winner in the gold-medal matches at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and personally outscored Japan in the 2015 World Cup Final.
"This was," Lloyd said after the 6-0 victory over South Korea, "one of the most special nights I’ve ever had in my life."
All that was missing was a goal.
It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye
I could go on and on. As a matter of fact, I actually keep a list of these little digs in the Notes app on my phone. It’s a long one. In my 17 years playing this beautiful game at the professional level, I’ve heard so many ugly things. A lot of athletes will tell you that they ignore the comments. That the words don’t sting. That it’s all just white noise. Well, I’m telling you now, as I prepare to say goodbye, that some of those words hurt me deeply.
I am — and I know this might come as a shock to some people — a human being. I’ve felt every emotion you can feel in this game. I’ve felt the highest highs, but I’ve also been sad, anxious, depressed, devastated, defeated. I’ve felt not worthy. I’ve felt misunderstood. I’ve felt everything.
‘I’m at peace’: Carli Lloyd seeks a special ending to a career-long chase for greatness
“I was happy before, you know,” she says. “But I think what people don’t understand is to reach the heights that I have, I almost had to be emotionless. I mean, maybe I didn’t have to, but it was sort of fight or flight mode. I didn’t want anything to derail me. I almost didn’t have feelings, even amongst my rift with my family. I was just kind of numb to a lot of things.”
She says the 2019 World Cup cycle changed her. After so many big performances in major tournaments, Lloyd started only one match in France and played just 199 total minutes. She not only started to feel some of her emotions, but shared them, as well. Two years later, on the other side of a long injury layoff, after splitting ties with long-time coach James Galanis and mending her relationship with her family, she’s earned happiness. There’s nothing left for her to prove in soccer except, she notes with a smile, an NWSL Championship, which might not be entirely out of reach this season with Gotham making a postseason run.
‘She’s a South Jersey hard ass’: Friends and teammates share stories of the Carli Lloyd they know
It wasn’t the first time Delran had feted Lloyd; in 2008, when she returned to the United States as an Olympic hero, a third of the town’s population of 17,000 (give or take) turned out to cheer for her on a parade route. In 2021, Catrambone guesstimated as many as 4,000 people were in attendance at the party’s peak. At the end of the night, Lloyd took the stage with her family present to thank everyone for coming, her voice wavering with emotion as she gave her speech.
The final capper: Delran Community Park, the site of the party, will be renamed Carli Lloyd Field. From one field in Delran to another, Lloyd had come full circle.
The Athletic spoke to the people who knew Lloyd throughout her soccer career, from her early years picking up teammates in her minivan through the turbulence with her family, the ups and downs with the national team and more. One might be tempted to say the image of two Lloyds emerged: the public and the private. But really, it was the image of a person who, like so many of us, grew more complex over time, and presented the face she thought was best to the world through her own imperfect, human understanding of her place in it.
‘WE WANT TO CARRY ON HER LEGACY’: CARLI LLOYD COMPLETES FINAL MISSION WITH USWNT
Aly Wagner Praises The ‘Mentality’ That Made Carli Lloyd One Of The Greatest Ahead Of Her Final Game For The USWNT
All That's Left for Carli Lloyd to Do Is Confront the End
Even in her final months as a national team player, Lloyd managed to etch her name in the U.S. record books, with her five-goal game against Paraguay tying the mark for most goals scored in a single match. She's also the oldest player to ever score for the U.S. She's appeared in more matches in major tournaments than any other U.S. player. Then there are the numbers that are perhaps a little less widely cited but no less important and significant when quantifying her career. There are the 10 goals in World Cups and 10 more in the Olympics. There are the 98 she's scored since turning 30. Simply put, there's just not much more that's new for Lloyd to discover in this game.
So as the curtain falls on one of the all-time great USWNT careers against South Korea at Allianz Field, there's only piece of business left to handle: confronting the end.