“For me, she really is the best player in the world. She’s just phenomenal.”
Stephanie Roche’s spell at Houston Dash may have been fleeting, and ultimately ended in disappointment, but she was in the USA long enough to see the remarkable dedication and commitment that has seen FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year nominee Carli Lloyd reach the very pinnacle of the women’s game.
“There were no airs and graces about her,” Roche recalled in an exclusive chat with FIFA.com. “She came in, got her job done and then went home – came back the next day and did the same thing. She was fit, she was strong, she was technical, she was good in the air – she had everything in my opinion.”
It was this remarkable skill set that saw Lloyd captain her USA side to FIFA Women’s World Cup™ success in Canada in the summer, scoring an outstanding hat-trick in the Final capped by a stunning third that made the 2015 FIFA Puskas Award shortlist.
But it has not been an easy road for Lloyd to the top. Roche identifies with Lloyd’s early struggles, having been released by the NWSL team in the summer due to issues with the number of international slots available in the squad, “something that I just had to try and get over,” as Roche puts it.
Lloyd herself was cut from the USA youth squad in the build-up to the 2004 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Athens. At that stage, she considered quitting the game, but Lloyd’s father Steve approached James Galanis, who coached her to even higher levels of fitness and helped hone her technique. She was recalled to the U-21 side in 2005 and didn’t look back, scoring Olympic gold-winning goals in 2008 and 2012, before her outstanding performance in Canada.
“I was just really happy to see her get the hat-trick in the final after everything that happened to her,” Roche said. “I’ve read about her story and how her trainer helped her out. It shows that with really hard work and determination you can get whatever you want.”
Roche herself has bounced back, playing a key part in Sunderland Ladies’ successful first season in England’s top tier. Her own devotion to training led to her becoming a YouTube sensation, with the technique for her Puskas Award-nominated goal catapulting her to global stardom.
Lloyd’s hard work and commitment has guided her to the very top, and that unique treble as a winning captain in a World Cup Final. After Roche continued a fine tradition as a role model last year, girls around the world will have yet more strong females, including Lloyd, to look up to come the glittering ceremony in Zurich on Monday 11 January.