To celebrate the stars many young athletes look up to, SportsEngine is shining the spotlight on professional sports role models, highlighting the formative years that helped propel them to greatness. In this edition, we focus on Carli Lloyd, one of the most decorated soccer players in U.S. history. A two-time FIFA Player of the Year, Lloyd scored the gold-medal clinching goals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and she was also key in two World Cup titles. She played her final match last month in a friendly against South Korea at Allianz Field in St. Paul. Email us at [email protected] if you have an athlete you would like spotlighted!
|Full Name:||Carli Lloyd|
|Team:||USWNT, NY/NJ Gotham FC|
She loved collecting matchbox cars and trading cards as a kid.
She was also a swimmer until she was 18 years old! Backstroke was her best event.
Her favorite pump-up songs are "A Sky Full of Stars" by Coldplay and "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten.
Lloyd grew up in a very active neighborhood, which helped her find her love of soccer
Carli Lloyd grew up in Delran, NJ and started playing soccer at the age of five. She said on her official website that she loved to be outside and appreciated being in a neighborhood full of very active kids that played a lot of sports. "I would come home from school, drop my bookbag and immediately change into my athletic clothes and go outside," Lloyd said. But soccer became her favorite activity, and she often had a soccer ball with her. "Life was easy when I was a child," she adds on her website. "There was no social media, no pressure to live up to certain standards. It was just me and the ball." She says she often walked to a nearby field, where she fired thousands of shots in her spare time.
Coach Galanis helped shape Lloyd into one of the strongest players in the game
Lloyd told PlaySports TV that James Galanis, one of her early coaches, had a huge impact on her game. He helped her break poor habits through specific drills, and he pushed her to improve her conditioning, diet, flexibility, and water consumption. "I kind of relied on my athletic ability," she told PlaySports TV, "and he taught me the importance of becoming fit, becoming strong, and becoming mentally tough as well as fine-tuning all my other attributes and skills.” Lloyd said that Galanis was a tough coach but still connected with every player on a personal level, pushing them to be the best they could be.
Despite being a standout in college, Lloyd struggled to break into the USWNT
Lloyd starred for the Rutgers' Scarlet Knights, becoming the school's first athlete to be a four-time, first-team All-Big East selection. She ended her college career with the most points (117), and she aimed to make the U.S. Women's National Team. In 2002, however, she was cut from the USWNT's Under-21 team. She referred to the event as a "huge wake-up call” and noted on her website that she wanted to quit soccer altogether. "At that point, I was planning to get a ‘real’ job and move on with a normal life," she says. But she couldn't shake her dream, and she decided she had to ramp up her work ethic and dedication. "I had to learn to embrace challenges, to not point the finger at anyone else or make excuses," she says.
"I had to condition my mind and body into working hard every single day. I had to turn my weaknesses into my strengths."
Lloyd became a breakout success after her performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
Lloyd eventually made the U-21 team and shined at the 2005 Nordic Cup, where she scored three goals, including one in the championship match. That performance helped propel her to the USWNT senior team, where she made her debut in July 2005 at 23 years old. Lloyd scored just once in her first 24 matches for the senior national team, but she scored four times at a tournament in 2007. But it was in 2008, at the Beijing Olympics, when Lloyd rose to prominence. She scored the only goal in a key qualifying game against Japan and scored the game-winner in extra time to defeat Brazil for the gold medal.
Lloyd has secured her spot as one of the USWNT’s all-time greats
In 2013, she told an ESPN reporter that she had a goal to win FIFA Women's Player of the Year. Not only did she win the award in 2015 — she won it again the next year. Lloyd played professionally for a handful of clubs, but she really made her mark for the U.S. Women's National Team, one of the most successful soccer teams in the world. She stands as one of the team's greatest players, with clutch goals and dominant stretches. None were more memorable than at the 2015 World Cup. There was a lot of pressure on the U.S. team against Japan, and Lloyd secured an early lead with a goal in the third minute and another in the fifth. She completed a hat trick by the just the 16th minute in the match. The team went on to take the World Cup championship trophy home that year.
Lloyd’s game only got better with age
While most players start to decline as they get into their 30s, Lloyd seemed to only get stronger. Since she turned 30, Lloyd has scored an international record-breaking 98 goals. Part of her success came from a position shift from midfielder to striker in her late 30s, a change that allowed her to pile on goals. She is the oldest player to score a hat trick for the USWNT (36 years, 83 days), and she also scored a record five goals in one friendly at the age of 39. Her total of 316 international caps (also known as appearances) is second-highest for the USWNT, and she's the third top-scorer with 134 goals. "I gave it all I had," Lloyd told Insider as she headed in to her final USWNT match. "I think that's what's really special walking away from this, is knowing that I did give it all I have. This next phase of mine is gonna be no different. I'm gonna find something that I'm passionate about and do it to the best of my ability."
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) October 29, 2021