‘Cap­tain Amer­ica’ now a su­per sub

Lloyd still go­ing full speed as role player on US team, but doesn’t have to like it

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - SPORTS - By Anne M. Peter­son

PARIS — Carli Lloyd is not ac­cept­ing her new role. Not at all.

Lloyd was the star of the 2015 Women’s World Cup four years ago in Canada, scor­ing three goals in the first 16 min­utes of the fi­nal to help the U.S. na­tional team win its third World Cup ti­tle.

The hat trick earned Lloyd the nick­name “Cap­tain Amer­ica” and made her one of women’s soc­cer most rec­og­niz­able ath­letes. She was voted FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, NFL quar­ter­back Mar­cus Mar­i­ota teed up a foot­ball for her in a Nike com­mer­cial and she wrote a suc­cess­ful book.

Now 36, Lloyd is a role player, likely a sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute in most matches.

“If I was sat­is­fied, I re­ally shouldn’t be here. That’s just not who I am as a per­son or a player,” she said. “I know that if called upon and need­ing to play 90 min­utes, I can do it. There’s noth­ing there that’s hold­ing me back ex­cept for the coach’s de­ci­sion.”

That’s not to say that Lloyd is a mal­con­tent. Quite the op­po­site.

“I haven’t sat here and pouted around and been a hor­ri­ble team­mate,” she said. “I’ve showed up every sin­gle day at train­ing and been the hard­est work­ing player I could pos­si­bly be, and been re­spect­ful of that de­ci­sion. When my chances have come I’ve tried to seize those and take those op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Lloyd finds her­self in much the same po­si­tion that Abby Wam­bach was in Canada. Head­ing to a record 184 in­ter­na­tional goals, she came off the bench dur­ing the 2015 World Cup for the first time since 2003. Wam­bach, who re­tired later that year, han­dled her sit­u­a­tion much dif­fer­ently than Lloyd.

“The World Cup for us, for our sport, is the big­gest ti­tle you can win as a team,” Wam­bach said at the time. “I’ve never had the op­por­tu­nity to win one. I’ve come close. That’s ob­vi­ously a dream of mine to be able raise that tro­phy for my coun­try.”

Coach Jill El­lis said she loves that Lloyd wants to start and be a dif­fer­ence-maker.

“I’ve said this, whether Carli comes off the bench or starts the game, she is a game-changer. What I know is that Carli will al­ways put the team first,” El­lis said.

Lloyd was benched be­fore the 2012 Lon­don Olympics by then-coach Pia Sund­hage, who liked the com­bi­na­tion of Shan­non Boxx and Lau­ren Hol­i­day. The de­mo­tion didn’t last long, how­ever, be­cause Boxx was in­jured in the opener.

Lloyd went on to score both goals in the gold-medal match against Ja­pan at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium. She be­came the only player to score win­ning goals in con­sec­u­tive Olympic fi­nals: At the Bei­jing Games in 2008, she scored in over­time for a 1-0 vic­tory against Brazil.

But she turns 37 next month and is the old­est player on the team. Carli Lloyd scored in her fifth straight

World Cup game for the United States, but she had to do it com­ing off the bench.

In Tues­day’s open­ing 13-0 rout of Thai­land, Lloyd en­tered in the 57th minute and scored in stop­page time. She be­came the old­est Amer­i­can woman to score at a World Cup and joined Ger­many’s Bir­git Prinz as the only play­ers to score in five straight World Cup games.

In the wake of Tues­day’s vic­tory, the Amer­i­can play­ers faced crit­i­cism for cel­e­brat­ing the late goals in a blowout. The United States plays its sec­ond group match on Sun­day against Chile in Paris.

El­lis said the open­ing night was about cel­e­brat­ing in­di­vid­ual achieve­ment.

“I think I was the most ex­cited on the last goal we scored, be­cause that was Carli Lloyd. And I know all the his­tory and all the back­ground of that player to get to that mo­ment, and what that meant,” El­lis said on the eve of Sun­day’s game. “So I think that’s im­por­tant to put that hu­man el­e­ment in this as well. It might seem a score line to you, but it’s also years and years of work. I didn’t know the score, I wasn’t cel­e­brat­ing the goal. I was cel­e­brat­ing Carli.”

Lloyd also is among the U.S. play­ers hop­ing to make a dif­fer­ence for the next gen­er­a­tion. The na­tional team has long cham­pi­oned equal rights, and play­ers col­lec­tively filed a law­suit ear­lier this year that al­leges dis­crim­i­na­tion by the U.S. Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion and are seek­ing pay eq­ui­table with that of the men’s na­tional team.

For now, how­ever, the fo­cus is win­ning a fourth ti­tle.

“I just want to do any­thing I can to help the team, and that hasn’t re­ally changed from when I first got to the team in 2005,” she said. “I’m the same player, truck­ing along, just want­ing to be bet­ter and bet­ter every sin­gle day.”


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