Carli Lloyd bids farewell to USWNT in emotional final game

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Carli Lloyd waves to fans after her last game as a member of the United States Women’s National Team on October 26, 2021 in St Paul, Minn.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Shortly after Carli Lloyd met Vlatko Andonovski, she had a question for her new coach.

She said, ‘How do you feel about the extra work? “”, Andonovsky recalled this week.

Lloyd, then 37, explained how she had her own training program. After a full session with the United States Women’s National Team, she told him she would call Google Maps, find a green square nearby, and borrow a team car to go do a few more sprints.

Sensing that his tireless star striker would do the practice anyway, Andonovski became pragmatic and offered to use the team’s well-maintained turf training grounds instead.

Lloyd’s legendary drive and intensity preceded this 2019 conversation, and against all odds, those qualities helped propel her for another two years and into another major tournament before Tuesday night, when at age 39, she capped an unparalleled international career in a farewell match at St. Paul. .

Playing in front of an adoring, near-sold-out crowd at Allianz Field, the Delran, New Jersey native was the center of attention throughout a friendly 6-0 victory over South Korea, the fans cheering him with every movement. Lloyd, who retires with the fourth-most goals (134) and second-most appearances (316) in international football history, concluded his career with a standing ovation from the 18,115 people in attendance. as she was replaced by Alex Morgan in the 66th minute. Afterwards, his teammates gathered around Lloyd as chants of “Thank you Carli” echoed through the stadium.

Following a video message from her husband, Brian Hollins, and a recap of her 17 year national team career, she concluded her career with a heartfelt speech thanking her teammates, fans, support staff of US Soccer and, Lloydian style, “the skeptics, the critics.”

“I love you all,” she said. “You have pushed me to higher and higher heights throughout my career, and I truly appreciate that.”

The match turned out to be a fitting farewell for one of the sport’s all-time great players, and a player who, despite his success, has at times been overshadowed by other top teammates.

Playing on a cold fall night in the capital of Minnesota, Lloyd had a chill in his step from the first minute. With the team’s veteran captain lining up alongside several less experienced teammates, Lloyd was quick on his feet, running while the others jogged. Although she was unable to convert her chances against a South Korean bunkering team, Lloyd ended her national team career on her terms – fit, fast and dangerous, the way she was. always wanted to play.

“I hope you all know that I gave everything I had for each of you,” she told the crowd.

“She is a football icon all over the world,” Andonovski said ahead of Tuesday’s game. “I’ve said it before, if she was a male soccer player in Europe, we would have statues of Carli Lloyd all over the country, the streets would be named after her, the complexes, the stadiums, everything. This is how she is tall.

Lloyd’s origin story has become a legend.

A star midfielder at Rutgers, she was ruled out of the United States Under-21 squad in 2003, and soon after began working with personal trainer James Galanis. With him, she developed the hyper-intense training regimen that would take her to unparalleled heights on the court, but also pain and heartache along the way.

As a player, Lloyd made her national team debut in July 2005, then played a pivotal role in some of the greatest moments in USWNT history.

In 2008 and 2012, she scored the goals that earned her the Olympic gold medal.

Most astonishing, however, was her performance in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final, when she scored three goals – including one on a daring strike from the midfielder – in the first 16 minutes, as the Americans beat Japan 5-2 in Vancouver. . That year marked the first of two consecutive years in which she was named the sport’s world player of the year.

The success, however, has not been linear.

Lloyd’s steadfast approach to training – long hours, rehearsal after rehearsal – led to a dozen-year separation from her family that didn’t end until 2020, when she broke up. is separated from Galanis. She has also played her career with a chip on her shoulder – though some of the skeptics were embellished in her head, she now admits. However, not all of them were.

Before becoming the Olympic heroine in 2012, she started the London Games as a reserve. The din of doubt only intensified as Lloyd hit his late 30s and a golden generation of American forwards took on the starting striker roles. True to her belief that she too was still one of the top scorers on the planet, Lloyd nonetheless accepted a super-friction role in the 2019 World Cup squad, starting just one game in the winning effort. .

And she made it clear that she was not finished.

With a change of coach this fall and smaller rosters at the 2020 Olympic tournament, a potentially ugly end to Lloyd’s career on the national team seemed more likely than not. Then the Olympics were postponed for a year due to the pandemic, inflicting yet another setback on the oldest player on the team.

Except that’s Lloyd we’re talking about.

Even before the Olympic rosters were finally extended from 18 to 22, Lloyd’s place in his eighth major for the United States was assured. Then, on a breezy evening in Kashima, Japan, she scored what would be the game-winning goal in a 4-3 win over Australia in the bronze medal game.

She never stopped believing in herself.

Ahead of Tuesday’s farewell game, Lloyd led all American players with 11 goals and six assists in 2021.

Long reluctant to talk about her age or the inevitable end of her playing career, Lloyd has tried to seize the moment since announcing her retirement in August. Whereas before she could have stayed in her hotel room focusing on the next game, Sunday night she joined teammates Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe at a Rolling Stones concert in Minneapolis, where the trio posed for a backstage photo with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

“Throughout my career, I just wanted to be the best soccer player I can be,” she said on Monday. “I often failed to do things for fun. I don’t miss a thing now.

Lloyd also embraced the moment on Tuesday. With nearly 30 family members in the crowd and career celebrations throughout the evening, she showed rare emotion in the show. After being substituted off the field for the last time in an American jersey, Lloyd took off her shoes and greeted fans for several moments before finally leaving the field. Before leaving the pitch, she removed her jersey, revealing a matching US jersey with her husband’s last name on the back.

In his immediate future his final professional season ends, where his team Gotham FC are in contention for the NWSL playoffs with two games to go. After that, she wants to start a family, she said, and stay involved in the game to some extent.

For one more night on Tuesday, however, Lloyd played the game the only way she knew how.

“Whatever you give her, she will get the most out of it,” Andonovski said. “Again she was there, like 17 years ago, tackling, winning tackles for us, playing balls, racing. It was typical of Carli Lloyd.


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