When last seen in a World Cup match, Carli Lloyd was scoring a hat trick to lead the U.S. women’s national team to a 5-2 rout of Japan in the 2015 final in Vancouver.
But it appears that when the U.S. seeks to defend its title in France this summer, Lloyd, 36, will be a reserve. Not that she is accepting that status without a fight.
Lloyd publicly has expressed her dissatisfaction with the role coach Jill Ellis has given her and reiterated on Tuesday that she is ready, willing and able to do more.
When asked in a panel Q&A in Manhattan to name her most memorable career moment, first she mentioned the 2015 Cup final, but soon she was talking about other issues, including her current situation.
“For me what’s memorable is just dealing with whatever is thrown at me, staying true to who I am as a person and a player, staying true to the beliefs that I have,” she said at an event to promote Telemundo’s Spanish-language coverage of the women’s World Cup as well as Copa America.
“I’m not afraid to be different. I’m not afraid to be someone who stands by what I value, just to be able to overcome and persevere through so many different challenges, whether it be injuries, whether it be being benched before the 2012 Olympics, the situation I’m in now.
“I mean, no one is going to break me. I’m going to continue to fight to the end and that’s really what I’m most proud of is continuously just working hard and continuously just dealing with what’s being thrown at me.”
When announcer/panelist Andres Cantor asked her whether her diminished playing time is one thing she is dealing with, she said, “Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been candid and open about it. I know that I still have a lot left to give this team. I know physically I’m in the best shape that I’ve been. I’m continuously doing well in fitness testing. I’m lighting it up in training every single day.
“Now I will have the opportunity to play three games with my club team [Sky Blue FC] and I’m going to do my thing. There’s still loads of time. I’ve amped up my training. I’m training double days and just revving it up now, so it’s all about being ready."
Lloyd and her teammates earlier this month filed a gender discrimination suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, alleging inequities in pay and work conditions. Lloyd was not asked about that in the formal Q&A and was not available to reporters during or after the Q&A.
The USWNT has been lauded for its depth and youth, but a sluggish start in 2019 – including a loss to France – has raised questions about the quality of that depth, or at least whether it has sufficient experience for the world stage.
"I think that every player can bring something to the table," Lloyd said. "In all of my past experiences being in a World Cup, being in an Olympics, you look to those veteran players. You get a sense or feeling from them knowing that no matter what happens they’re going to fight and they’ve been through that before and they know what to expect.
“When you get to these big events no preparation except for being in those moments can prepare you for that . . . [The veteran players] are going to have to be strong and lead the group and that’s going to be an important factor for all of us.”
Lloyd said she expects a more difficult road than four years ago, with potential threats including Australia, England, Germany, France and Chile.
It starts with a group that includes Sweden, the team that stunned the Americans in an Olympic quarterfinal in Rio in 2016.
Lloyd downplayed the team’s slow start this calendar year.
“I think everyone looks at our 2018 year of being undefeated,” she said, “but I always say to people it doesn’t matter what you did in 2017, 2018. What matters is what happens when you actually land in France and you play games 1 through 7, if you’re lucky enough to get there. May the best team in that particular time frame win. All the rest of the years don’t matter.
“I think there are some lessons we can extract from some games that we played. You obviously want to have some of these things come out now versus in the summer, so it’s all about continuing to build, continuing to get better.
“I think the biggest thing for us is making sure we still have that American-mentality edge. That is what has intimidated teams all of these years. We must have that, because I think sometimes teams get out on the field and are not as intimidated. I think that’s going to be an important factor going into the summer.”