Carli Lloyd, USA’s rock of ages
“She’s having the tournament of her life,” said Abby Wambach, discussing the stellar form of team-mate Carli Lloyd with FIFA.com.
The statistics back up that view. USA’s matchwinner in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ against China PR, it was Lloyd who set the Stars and Stripes on the way to another hard-fought win over Germany in the semis.
The Live Your Goals Player of the Match in both those games and USA’s Round-of-16 outing against Colombia, the midfielder has contributed more than just goals to her side’s performances, going about her work faultlessly and industriously.
Explaining what she has to offer the team, Lloyd said: “The coach knows that I’m going to do all I can to help the team, no matter where she puts me on the pitch.” An all-rounder with an insatiable appetite for hard work, Lloyd is also a tough competitor, the kind of player her team-mates can rely on to stand tall in the most demanding situations.
The USA captain proved that much in stepping up to take a 69th-minute penalty against the Germans, with a 51,176 crowd at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium and millions of TV viewers looking on. It was a crucial moment in a very tight match, with the scores still tied after the normally reliable Celia Sasic had spurned a chance to put Germany ahead from the spot just six minutes earlier.
Lloyd was not about to do the same, however. Keeping her cool, she sent the imposing Nadine Angerer the wrong way to put the Americans 1-0 up.
Recalling her thoughts as she prepared to take the kick, Lloyd told FIFA.com: “I just told myself I’d done this a million times in training, that it was important but that I needed to be confident if I was going to put the ball in the back of the net. So I just got hold of the ball, put it down on the spot and focused as hard as I could on it and on what I had to do.”
Now 32, the Houston Dash player has displayed that same coolness many times before, not least in scoring an extra-time winner in the final of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 against Brazil.
She was also the hero of the hour in London four years later, scoring both goals as USA beat Japan 2-1 to win their fourth Olympic title and avenge their defeat to the Nadeshiko in the Final of Germany 2011.
“I train and live for these moments,” said the New Jersey-born star. “I go through a lot of mental preparations to make sure I’m ready, to be a tough and proud competitor and to face up to every situation.”
Not content with her penalty opener against the Germans, the tireless Lloyd also set up USA’s match-sealing second, skipping to the by-line with six minutes remaining and cutting the ball back for Kelley O’Hara to score the first goal of her international career.
“My coaches have been drumming it into me for years that you have to know how to deal with these moments,” added Lloyd, speaking with a calmness that is reflected in the way she goes about her business on and off the pitch.
“I’ve learned not to let any challenge slip away from me. I always try to identify those key moments and tell myself that that’s when I have to stand up and be stronger than ever.”
A rock her team-mates can depend on, Lloyd is now bracing for her next challenge: Sunday’s Final, the kind of occasion she was born to grace.