The IX Carli Lloyd appreciation edition

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, October 25, 2021

I remember covering the 2015 World Cup and watching just stunned as Carli Lloyd scored those three goals in the first 16 minutes of the final against Japan.

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I was still really somewhat new to the beat (I started covering the team in 2014). A couple of thoughts went through my head in that moment, first as a reporter: `Thank you Carli for making my job easier.’ Then as a soccer fan: `Oh my!’

(Funny aside: Sen. Ted Cruz retweeted my Tweet about Lloyd after the game and I got about 10,000 followers instantly. Then they all unfollowed me the next day when they figured out who I was.)

No matter how you feel about Lloyd, and sometimes her sheer intensity could be off-putting, there’s no denying that she’s one of the best ever to play for the U.S. national team.

Jonathan Tannenwald, who has covered Lloyd’s career perhaps more than anyone, wrote this wonderful piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Michael Lewis, who has covered soccer in the United States longer than anyone, also did a nice tribute, rounding up wat others have said about Lloyd, for his site, Front Row Soccer.

And Meg Linehan had this great piece this morning for The Athletic.

What sets Lloyd apart is her sheer focus and determination. We all saw it leading into the Olympics how focused she was on making the team, and then going out in style. She and Megan Rapinoe each scored twice in the bronze medal match against Australia.

I’ve said it before, but I wish I had even half of Lloyd’s drive.

You all see the first 10 minutes of a training session the day before a game, you watch us play 90 minute games once or 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. It 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, what makes great athletes great in their respective sports, is how hard their journey is. And you have to really just embrace it and be able to persevere through anything that’s thrown your way.”

On a Zoom call today with reporters, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said when he first took over the team, Lloyd asked him how he felt about players doing extra work on the side. Turns out Lloyd was googling spots where she could run on the side near team training camps. (Great question from Steph Yang!)

I said, `How did you do it in the past?’  and she said, `I would just go on Google Maps find a piece of green area and get one of the cars or vehicles that we have in camp and drive there and do my do my runs.’ So I said, `In other words, you’re going do it anyways?” She said, `Yes.’ I’m like, `OK then, you might as well do it here with us. You don’t and park and twist your ankle somewhere. At least we’re going to provide a good field.'”

Anyway, I was just thinking that it’s going to be weird not seeing Lloyd out of the field, not seeing her in the mixed zone after big games. I’ve got to say, she’s been gracious to me every step of the way, even at the 2019 World Cup when she was displeased about her role as a sub. When her book came out she spoke to me, for a couple of hours from her kitchen table while I fretted my phone battery was going to die.

So, tomorrow night, raise a glass to Carli Lloyd. Truly an original.


Take a quick moment to fill out this NWSL supporter survey for The Athletic. Due tomorrow!

NPR spoke to an expert about why abuse of women in athletics keeps happening.

Sandra Herrera at CBS Sports opines that the NWSL MVP might not be the Golden Boot winner, and here’s her candidates. Sandra also wrote about Cedella Marley’s Football is Freedom initiative.

Becky Sauerbrunn reflects on the heavy days in the scandal fallout, from Jeff Carlisle of ESPN.

Kaiya McCollough speaks to CNN about the need for accountability in the NWSL

Harjeet Johal writes about the Canadian women’s soccer team and where they go from here for The Equalizer.

The Orlando Sentinel Julie Poe speaks to Mark Wilf about the Orlando Pride and change in the NWSL.

NWSL CEO Marla Messing spoke to reporters about working with the union and going forward. From me!

Excellent story about Bella Bixby and player development from Steph Yang at The Athletic.

Bloomberg did a nice video on why investment in women’s sports is vital.

Kathleen McNamee wrote a nice story on Lynn Williams for ESPN.

Maggie Mertens writes for The Atlantic about the most famous low-wage workers in the country.

Interesting story from the New York Times on how athletes are turning to outside hotlines and other support.

Blair Newman on the uncapped players that might be vying for spots on England’s team.

Last but not least, excellent story from Shareen Ahmed on Canadian players speaking out about a culture of abuse.

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Five at The IX: Carli Lloyd

Keith Richards with his arm around Carli. One thing I never thought I’d see?

Question: You’ve talked a lot these last few weeks about the tunnel vision you’ve always sort of had to have. How do you think you’re going to channel that energy in the next phase of your life?

Lloyd: Obviously, I read Meg Linehan’s story that just came out this morning, and it kind of talks about just that sheer tunnel vision, and that focus that I’ve had to have to get to this point. And I don’t think that there’s many that understand what it actually takes. It’s a lot. I just said the other day at training, `It’s very tiring to continue to prove people wrong,’ 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, 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.

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. And I think that’s what’s really special walking away from this is knowing that I did give it all I have.

And this next phase of mine, I think, is going to be no different. You know I’m going to find something that I’m passionate about and do it to the best of my ability. I want to eventually start a family with my husband and want to be the best mom and strive to be the best wife that I possibly can. And yes, it’s going to be a little different. I’m not going to be, you know, feeling the pressure of having to perform in World Cup and Olympics, but I got to do that, and now I’ll just shift gears and do something different.

Question: You’ve said you’ve tried to play every game these last 17 years like it’s your last. How do you think you’ll feel be tomorrow night when it actually is.

Lloyd: I think emotions are going to flow, obviously. I’ve sort of been this player where haven’t let my mind go to feeling tired or feeling burned out, or wanting to hang up my boots. And I’m at this stage, I’m at this point, in my career. 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 gonna flow. I think I’ve been iced out Carly 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, and 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. That is so every last possible minute out of it and enjoy it.

Question: How were the Rolling Stones. Did you meet Mick and you have any second thought going for as long as they have in their 80s.

Loyd: That’s the thing, I think throughout my career I’ve, I’ve just wanted to be the best soccer player that I could be, I’ve often missed out on going to do things for fun. I’m not missing out on anything now, and I was really happy that I decided to go see the Rolling Stones, live. They were unbelievable. They sort of make me feel like I should I should keep playing. Mick running down the stage at the age of 78 and performing the way he did was pretty incredible. They were unbelievable. I know that it wasn’t really my era, growing up watching them, but unbelievable bucket list to cross off to be able to see them perform.

Question: Did you get to meet them?

Lloyd: Yes, Alex, Megan and I got to meet him, it was really cool. Definitely one of my, my top favorite moments.
Question: Do you have memories of your first camp, and your first first cap. And at that point, what did you think would lay ahead for you?

Lloyd: I remember getting called in in 2004, from the under-21 camp that I had been part of. There were a couple of us that got to go in and train with the national team. They were actually setting the roster for Sydney and the ’04 Olympics. And so to kind of get thrown into one of the most intense camps, right before a roster is being selected, was a pretty big wake up call. I remember playing 5-v-5, which are often blood baths with this team. Bri Scurry was on my team, I believe I was playing with Mia at one point and just all these players and the standard was just so high, the demand. I remember Bri 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 Mia being so specific with where she actually wanted the ball played to her feet. It was an eye opener, you know, at that point I knew I had a long way to go and 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 gonna have with this team, not knowing if you’re gonna make World Cup teams Olympic teams. It’s pretty crazy, as I’m sort of dwindling down the hours here, 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 a game, you watch us play 90 minute games once or 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. It 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, what makes great athletes great in their respective sports, is how hard their journey is. And you have to really just embrace it and be able to persevere through anything that’s thrown your way. It’s crazy, growing up watching the ’99 World Cup team and having a poster signed by them at the Jefferson Cup tournament and retiring, just like those that came before me did, and it’s pretty surreal.”

Question: A lot of athletes talk about that period after retirement as a tough adjustment. Do you think you’ll head over to Gotham and just see what’s going on, poke around, touch a ball?

Lloyd: I think it’s a transition that I’m about to find out. I’ve spoken to a number of different players, Heather Mitts, Hope, Heather O’Reilly, Aly Wagner, on the transition. And there is life after soccer, they’ve all told me that, it just looks different. I think the game of soccer is such a beautiful game that I’ve been playing for 34 years, and I don’t think that the love and that passion will just go away as soon as I hang up my boots, playing. I think there’ll be other things to fill. I don’t think anyone can ever fill what this journey has been all about, and that’s okay. So I don’t know that I’ll be checking in a preseason and getting my boots on, necessarily. But I can’t leave the game, altogether. 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 you know just form relationships and figure out how I can play a role in helping, because I really believe that I can help and I can continue to share my wisdom. I really enjoy the people side of things, I enjoy 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. I don’t know what that role will be but I’d love to stay involved. I think what’s really special is this sort of last hurrah with Gotham FC. Yael and Scott and the coaching staff, and just all of the staff that we have in place now, it’s on the right track. So I’m really excited about that. I wish that all of this came maybe your two prior, where I had another year or two left to play. But I want to try to help in any way I can and I don’t know what that will be but we’ll have to wait and see

Question: Your teammates have been offering a lot of tributes over the last few days. Becky Sauerbrunn said you’ve shown up in some of the biggest games that women’s soccer has to offer and we go along in those tournaments, and a big reason is because we have players like Carli Lloyd. When you hear something like that, what does it mean to you?

Lloyd: It’s special. I know that I’ve probably been misunderstood throughout the years by teammates, coaches, fans, and just about everybody. But I’ve just tried to give my most authentic self, truthful, honest, raw. I’ve given everything I have to this team, day in and day out, every time. Every email I get notifying me that I’m getting invited into the next camp, has always been the same feeling I’ve gotten even up until this last camp where I knew I was coming in. But that feeling has just never gone away with me. It is an honor, it is a privilege it is just an amazing feeling to be part of this team. I couldn’t have done this without all of the teammates, former teammates, current teammates. This is a team sport, you know, this takes 11 players on the field, it takes players on the bench. It takes players coming in for a camp or two. Everyone is has pushed me. I’ve pushed them. I’m super thankful for that and I think toward the end of my career, I think people have a greater understanding of what I’m about, why I’ve been the way that I’ve been, and that I’ve just wanted to help this team win championships, and I’ve wanted to just be the best player that I possibly can be every single day. Those big moments, those moments where everything’s on the line, where we’re three, four games into a major tournament, that’s where I love to show up. I’m going to miss those moments. Those moments are the greatest moments ever. I’ve had four World Cups, four Olympics, I’ve won some, lost some, but those moments are just the best moments to be able to perform on and play on, and I’m thankful for every single one of my teammates. I’m going to miss them dearly and I’m going to be the biggest fan, cheering them on for this next cycle.

Question: When you look back on kind of the impact that you’ve had on young soccer fans, What does that make you think and how do you reflect on that?

Lloyd: I think it’s important. I was a player who grew up with, not many live female role models, there wasn’t social media. And I think that I’ve prided myself in just being a good human being, on and off the field, tried to go about my career doing all the right things, wasn’t always perfect at times. I failed, I messed up. I did things that I maybe could have done better, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Hopefully my story can help inspire several generations to come to know that ultimately it’s up to you, it’s up to the individual, how far you want to take your career, how far you want to go in life. And it just takes so much work to get there. It’s great to be in this position, I know when I do my clinics across the country, there’s loads of kids coming up to me and they just stare at you and they just have this look in their face like they’re their meetings some iconic figure. And for me I just treat myself as just normal Carli Lloyd but to them, I’m a hero in their eyes. For me, that is just everything, it’s a priceless thing and saying one or two words to them like good job really has life changing effects on all those girls and boys, and it’s truly something very special.
Question: I know that you’ve previously given a shout out to the origins of the women’s national team in Minnesota. What do you know about that history, have you talked to Michelle Akers or anyone that was in those first games

Question: I mean I haven’t, but it’s sort of a very iconic, sentimental thing, to be wrapping up my career here where it all began for this team. I’ve tried to represent the crest the way that they started it, those players before me, the players who started the culture within this team. It was something that I had to learn over time. It was something that I didn’t have as a younger player, but when I came onto this team, I had to fight and claw my way to the top, and all you could do is put your head down and work hard every single day. I know this team has sort of been through a lot in the last couple of years, we’ve got to find that way back to what that culture was about from the start of this team. Hopefully, hopefully we can do that. I have great confidence in the squad and the coaching staff and everything, but that’s what it’s been about, and we can never lose sight of that, because it’s made this team so dominant for so many years. And the game is getting harder and harder. Teams are catching up to us, each and every year, which is what we want. But yeah, for a number of different reasons to be able to end my career here it’s, it’s pretty special.

Question: During these last few days these last few hours have you had a chance to think about the journey in terms of who’s impacted your success along the way?

Lloyd: I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting still reflecting. I think so many people. It’s hard to just name a few, because everybody that I’ve been coached by, every player that I’ve played with, they’ve all played a role, big, small. U.S. Soccer NWSL, WPS support staff here with US Soccer meets people have, have helped along the way and I’m incredibly thankful for that. I think that there’s one person in my life who was pretty close to living this life that I’ve lived is my husband Brian. I’ve had a lot of reflection about that because the sheer amount of things that you give up on a daily basis, 17 years of time that we could have probably spent a lot more together. When he’s been reading some of the articles and seeing some of the things, what he said to me is, `I feel like I could have felt your pain all through this, and how hard it was of a a journey.’ Because it’s been so hard. But so hard and so rewarding at the same time. So he’s played a massive role in helping, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without his support, I think it takes a special someone, as we all have our significant others, It takes a special someone to support the life that we have, because it is extremely far off from being normal. But I’m incredibly thankful for coaches, five coaches I’ve had here, club coaches, club coaches growing up. Again, they may not have liked me, I may not have loved them every step of the way, but they’re a part of the journey and they’ve made me into the player that I am today.

Question: Wondering what the maybe friend and family contingent looks like for tomorrow, if you’ve thought about what the moment might mean to have some of those folks in attendance.

Lloyd: It’s special, I’ve got my mom dad here my sister, my 4-year old niece, my 4-week old niece, a two year old niece. My brother in law, unfortunately stayed home. My brother’s here, his wife, Brian, a friend of ours. Brian’s mom, sister, aunt and then I’ve got some other family members and friends who are common as well. So I think around 28 people or so that are coming out which is really special. Over the course of my career I’ve haven’t had my family in my life for a majority of that, and we’ve missed out on so many things together as a family, and it’s been hard, something that I sacrificed for, a good portion of my career, for 12 years. But since this last chapter has begun, in 2020 and on, they haven’t missed a single thing, which is really special. I don’t know that I would be as happy as I am, having them by my side, back in my life, everything just feels like it’s come full circle. And I know when I play this game it’s gonna be really hard to hold back the tears. It’s going to be hard to get on the mic after the game, but I’m just going to embrace it and I’m going to know that they’re here by my side. Having them here being able to close out my career is, is going to be the one of the best things that’s ever probably happened to me, just knowing I can walk away at peace and content is really, really special.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson