USWNT'S CARLI LLOYD RETIRING AS THE MOST CLUTCH INTERNATIONAL PLAYER EVER
Lloyd — who announced her retirement at age 39 on Monday, less than two weeks after she helped the USWNT to a bronze medal at the Tokyo Games — was rarely the face of the U.S. squad during her glittering, 17-year run with the national team.
But her career is second to none. And when it comes to big-game players, Lloyd is easily the most clutch international player of all time.
Lloyd didn’t score for the U.S. until more than a year after she joined the senior squad in 2005. But after she started scoring, she never stopped. Her two strikes in that Aug. 5 bronze-medal match were Nos. 127 and 128, pulling the scrappy forward-midfielder from the New Jersey side of Philadelphia’s suburbs into a tie with Prinz for fifth on the all-time list.
Lloyd will add to her 312 appearances, the second-most in history behind Lilly, when she suits up in red, white and blue a few final times in to-be-announced friendlies this fall. She’s one of just four players to break the 300-cap mark.
Legend Carli Lloyd calls it a career: USWNT will struggle to find another soccer player like her
Lloyd had been dropping hints into her interviews about the price of playing soccer at an elite level up to and beyond her 39th birthday. She talked about the sacrifices made by those around her, most notably her husband of five years, Brian Hollins, and how it was time simply to experience another sort of life. And still there were many in the soccer media who contended Lloyd never would consent to leaving the national team by choice.
She had displayed such insistence about her place in the game, on the USWNT, in these final few years that it was reasonable to assume she lacked the ability to shut it down. But she will finish this season with NJ/NY Gotham FC of the NWSL and play four fall friendly games with the USWNT, and that will be it.
Tokyo Olympics: Carli Lloyd gets the exit she deserves with brilliant bronze-medal game|
And she was leaving with heartache.
Carli Lloyd, ‘unapologetically me,’ savors the last dance
On the runs that have nourished her, day after day, rain or shine. The distance runs and intervals. The early mornings and afternoons. The hotel stairwells or clandestine workouts at a nearby field. The stubbornness when coaches have tried to “deny” her.
She reflected on 16-plus years of it; on the times it didn’t yield results; on the times people questioned her.
And as she reflected, she felt proud. Proud of “just never wavering,” she said. “Just being me. Unapologetically me.”
Carli Lloyd's stubborn brilliance
But five years ago, Lloyd says, entering the 2016 Olympics, USWNT head coach Jill Ellis and high performance coach Dawn Scott wouldn’t let her.
Their reasons were likely backed by science, individualized data, empirical research that has refined our understanding of how elite athletes can optimize performance. Every major professional sports team employs data; weaponizes it; chases it in search of every last microscopic advantage. And it told the USWNT, at times, that Lloyd’s obsessive running was suboptimal.
It told her to do less. She wanted to do extra.
It told her to taper before games. She wanted to push.
It told her to rest up, especially coming off a knee injury in 2016. She wanted to run.
So she did, clandestinely, again and again. She says Ellis and Scott “denied” her. She “had to sneak out and run a massive amount of times.”
Carli Lloyd was estranged from her family for 12 years. A lost year reunited them.
Lloyd discussed her newfound relationship with her family in an interview with The Washington Post. Her family members could not be reached for comment.
Despite the long estrangement, she said, “We were meant to be in each other’s lives.”
“My parents always thought when I was done playing we could start to have a relationship,” Lloyd said. “It just so happened that 2020 happened, and here we are, and they are able to be part of this journey with me.”
In an exclusive interview with The Inquirer, U.S. soccer star and Delran native Carli Lloyd reflects on her quest for a record-tying fifth major title at the Tokyo Olympics, and why she’s never been happier in her career.
But there is a human being behind that machine. It hasn’t always been easily visible, and at times Lloyd has deliberately kept it hidden, but it’s there. And as Lloyd the soccer player prepares for the Olympics, the eighth and likely last major tournament of her career, Lloyd the human — who celebrated her 39th birthday on Friday with her U.S. teammates in Japan — is coming back to the fore.
“I think this is the first time in my career where I’m entering a major tournament feeling, physically and mentally, more prepared and ready than I ever have been,” she told The Inquirer. “But I think the most important aspect is I’ve never been this happy.”
Carli Lloyd was estranged from her family. How the postponed Olympics healed a 12-year rift
"I don’t know what would’ve happened if the Olympics actually went on in 2020," Lloyd told TODAY. "Would they have been a part of it? Would I have rekindled the relationship with them? I don’t know.
"I’m just happy now that we are in the place that we are, and everybody feels good about it."