Carli Lloyd still driven to fight for more US glory

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY GREG BEACHAM As­so­ci­ated Press

Carli Lloyd re­al­izes mil­lions of ca­sual soccer fans don’t fol­low the in­ter­na­tional game out­side the World Cup. Some U.S. fans haven’t paid close at­ten­tion to the women’s na­tional team since Lloyd got her iconic hat trick to win the Fi­nal four years ago in Van­cou­ver, British Columbia.

When those same fans tune in for the World Cup in France this sum­mer, many would be shocked to find Lloyd now is a re­serve for the team she pro­pelled to the ti­tle in 2015.

But Lloyd, 36, isn’t set­tling for the role to which she has been largely rel­e­gated over the past two years.

Her lat­est per­for­mance sug­gested maybe coach Jill El­lis shouldn’t set­tle for it, ei­ther.

“I want to win,” Lloyd said. “I’m a win­ner. Peo­ple can say what they want, but I know at the end of the day I can help this team lift that tro­phy in France, and I’m not go­ing to stop un­til I can do that.”

Lloyd seized the spot­light Sun­day night at Banc of Cal­i­for­nia Sta­dium, evok­ing mem­o­ries of her great­est per­for­mances and de­ci­sively show­ing she still can de­liver in the No. 10 jersey, typ­i­cally re­served for ev­ery team’s top play­maker.

In her first start of 2019, Lloyd largely had the role of a No. 9 for­ward against Bel­gium. And did she ever play it: Lloyd scored two goals dur­ing the open­ing min­utes and added a sec­ond-half as­sist dur­ing a 6-0 rout.

“Tonight I got my chance, and I’m thank­ful for that chance, but noth­ing has changed,” Lloyd said. “I’m do­ing the same thing I’ve been do­ing from Day One for my ca­reer. I’m work­ing hard. I’m hum­ble enough to know that there’s things I can im­prove on, and I’m not stop­ping. I’ve been pretty blunt about that. Those that want to doubt can doubt.”

Lloyd fa­mously scored her World Cup hat trick within 16 min­utes, and she needed just about five min­utes to score her brace against Bel­gium. Lloyd got both goals through the air, out­ma­neu­ver­ing de­fend­ers and knock­ing home both head­ers with aplomb.

Lloyd then set up a goal by Alex Mor­gan, demon­strat­ing her play­mak­ing abil­ity along with her fin­ish­ing skill. With hun­dreds of fans wear­ing Lloyd’s jersey among the bois­ter­ous crowd of 20,941, their hero partly stole the show from even the 1999 World Cup cham­pi­onship team, which was hon­ored on the field at half­time.

Lloyd played with a few of the 99ers early in her ca­reer, and she forged her own stan­dard in the game with back-to-back FIFA Player of the Year awards and that World Cup star turn. She be­came a house­hold name and an icon of women’s sports, dab­bling in ev­ery­thing from world­wide en­dorse­ment deals to writ­ing her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

She al­ready was a biggame leg­end be­fore the 2015 World Cup, scor­ing goals to win the Olympic tour­na­ments in 2008 and 2012 – but Lloyd in­sists her days of ex­cel­lence are far from fin­ished.

When asked how she stayed mo­ti­vated and fo­cused to over­come age and ob­sta­cles, Lloyd cited every­one from LeBron James and Kobe Bryant to Tom Brady and Michael Jor­dan.

“They’re just ad­dicted to win­ning, and that’s no dif­fer­ent than how I am as a per­son,” Lloyd said. “I know that I can con­trib­ute. I know what I’m ca­pa­ble of, and it’s just about putting the work in day in and day out, be­ing ready for the mo­ment, seiz­ing the op­por­tu­nity and be­ing ready. Men­tally and phys­i­cally, I couldn’t have been more ready for this op­por­tu­nity.”

El­lis’ de­ci­sion to scale back her play­ing time has clearly fu­eled Lloyd, who pre­vi­ously ac­knowl­edged her dis­ap­point­ment with lim­ited min­utes. She had played only 34 min­utes this year be­fore Los An­ge­les, serv­ing as a re­serve in five games.

El­lis must set­tle on her fi­nal World Cup ros­ter within the next few weeks, so those de­ci­sions are tak­ing up much of her time.

When asked about Lloyd’s po­ten­tial to play her way into a big­ger role, El­lis gen­tly de­flected the no­tion, not­ing that Lloyd al­ready has an im­por­tant part to play in France.

RINGO H.W. CHIU AP

Carli Lloyd (10) seizes the spot­light Sun­day night against Bel­gium at Banc of Cal­i­for­nia Sta­dium in Los An­ge­les, evok­ing mem­o­ries of her great­est per­for­mances.

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