Carli Lloyd is one of the most recognizable faces in the women’s soccer world and she deserves it. When you are the only player in men’s and women’s soccer to score the game-winning goals in two Summer Olympic Games, the sports world takes notice. Fortunately, for sports enthusiasts, Lloyd isn’t done making history.
On every level in her soccer career, she has risen to the challenge of becoming a champion and a superstar. From high school to college to the Women’s World Cup and Summer Olympics, Lloyd has been a key factor in all her teams’ biggest wins. Lloyd has enjoyed the wins and making history in the sport and is proud of her accomplishments.
“Scoring those goals in the two gold medal games was an amazing experience,” Lloyd said. “It fulfilled a lifetime dream. Winning those two gold medals was great, and I feel it helped with another turning point in the popularity of women’s soccer.”
It wasn’t an easy road to superstardom for Lloyd who battled injuries and times on the bench, but the New Jersey native has persisted in getting to the top of her profession by helping the U.S. women’s soccer team win the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympic Gold medals.
“Being a role model is very important to me,” Lloyd said. “I want to be one for young girls and boys for not just what I do on the field but off the field as well. I want to show them the right ways to train, prepare and eat in order to be strong.”
As a child, Lloyd was inspired by other great athletes who motivated her to work hard, strive to win championships, and to be the best athlete she could be.
“I was really inspired by Michelle Akers and Michael Jordan when I was growing up,” Lloyd said. “Michelle did so much for the sport of women’s soccer, and Michael Jordan was also an important role model to me. They were both true champions who strived to be the best.”
Lloyd has worked hard to get to where she is in her career. She dominated the sport when she played for Delran High School in New Jersey. She was also a star athlete for several W-League club teams before playing for Rutgers University from 2001 through 2004. She was coached by Glenn Crooks and was named First-Team All-Big East for four consecutive years. She was also named the 2001 Big East Rookie of the Year and the 2004 Big East Midfielder of the Year.
“I felt really fortunate to be able to stay at home to play during college,” Lloyd said. “I had a great experience [playing at Rutgers]. It was cool to play there.”
While playing for the Scarlet Knights, Lloyd became a power player on the international scene. She was a member of the U.S. Junior National Team from 2002 to 2005 and competed in four Nordic Cups. Lloyd graduated to the Senior National Team in 2005 and played in two World Cups and two Olympics with mixed results. In the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Lloyd started three games and finished third on the team in scoring nine goals and three assists as the U.S. finished third.
It was a disappointing experience for Lloyd and her teammates who clashed with embattled US Team head coach Greg Ryan.
“It was a tough time sitting,” Lloyd said. “My type of play conflicted with Coach Ryan’s coaching philosophy, and it was a difficult time.”
“Pia was one of the best coaches that I ever played for,” Lloyd said. “She was always so positive and very passionate. She was always smiling. She sat down with me the first day that she coached and said that she liked the way I played, and she really believed in me. It meant an awful lot to me.”
Under Coach Sundhage’s tutelage, Lloyd’s game flourished. She started in all 35 games on the team that year and was named the U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year. She scored the game-winning goal in an overtime victory over Brazil.
“It felt really great to make an impact on the team,” Lloyd said. “I really believed in myself and I felt that I did a good job on the team getting those goals in the finals.”
Two years later, Lloyd suffered a broken ankle while playing in the fourth game for Sky Blue FC in the Women’s Professional Soccer League. She displayed an uncanny toughness playing on it through 15 matches for Team USA in the FIFA Women’s World Cup playoff series and the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament scoring two goals.
“It really was a tough year with the injuries,” Lloyd said. It was something I had to fight through on the team.”
In the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Lloyd and Team USA came up short again losing to Japan in the finals, but the lost set the stage for a memorable experience in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England. Lloyd scored two goals in the Olympics before the Olympic gold medal match against Japan in London’s Wembley Stadium. Lloyd scored both American goals in USA’s 2-1 victory. This gave her four goals in the tournament which tied for the second highest on the U.S. squad. She is the only woman in history to score the winning goal in two separate Olympic gold medal matches.
“The Olympics was an exciting time for us,” Lloyd said. “It was definitely a different experience for us. In 2008 in China, soccer was played in stadiums with tracks around it. It definitely lacked an intimate setting with the fans. In 2012 in London, it was definitely a different situation. England is a hotbed for soccer, and it was an honor to play in those stadiums. Scoring the winning goals in front of 80,000 fans in the gold medal game in Wembley Stadium was unbelievable.”
Besides being part of another gold medal-winning team, Lloyd said she felt being part of something even bigger with the team’s back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
“Social media really helped us with media exposure in 2008 and 2012,” Lloyd said. “People really took note of what we were doing and watched our events. I really feel that winning our second gold medal was a turning point for the sport, and that was really exciting for us. The first turning point for our sport was in 1999.Those players were pioneers in their sport, and what they did was unreal. I feel that our team is now part of another turning point of the sport. You are now hearing about the great teams in our sport, not just individual players like you have in the past.”
The Olympic experience was great for Lloyd, but it was also bittersweet because the Games ended with the resignation of legendary head coach and mentor Pia Sundhage on September 1, 2012. The team has not named a new coach yet, but that has not stopped Lloyd. She is continuing her intensive training regime in preparation for the next Team USA games.
“I will really miss Pia,” Lloyd said. “She was such a great coach and she did so much to help improve our team. I will really miss her. We are now waiting for a new coach which is very difficult. It is about starting over again, getting more fit, and continuing my training. I have been working with my trainer James Galanis for the past 11 years, and he is helping me get fit and strong. I want to continue to be the best and to win.”
Note: Tom Sermanni, former Australian Women’s National Team coach, was appointed head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team on October 30th. He begins on January 1st. U.S. Soccer Women’s Development Director Jill Ellis will continue coaching the last five matches of the post-Olympic Fan Tribute Tour.
Photo credit: US PRESSWIRE
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