For U.S. women’s national team captain Carli Lloyd, there’s a silver lining to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics — an extra year for the Americans to prepare and train with new coach Vlatko Andonovski.
The two-time World Cup champion spoke on ESPN on Tuesday following the the Japanese government’s announcement the Tokyo Olympics will be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is expected to be moved to the summer of 2021.
Lloyd said the extra year can only benefit the team and Andonovski, who took over the role of head coach in November 2019. Andonovski had less than three months with the team before the Americans dove into Concacaf qualifying for the Olympics in late January.
“For me personally, you know I’m excited, because it’s more opportunity to train, more opportunity to get more fit, more time to prepare,” Lloyd said. “I think for our team, especially with Vlatko and a new coaching staff, there wasn’t much time to prepare and now he’s going to get more time with us and we all have kind of gotten a recharge and a break.”
The extra time could help the U.S. achieve an elusive milestone, becoming the first women’s team to win the Olympics after winning the FIFA World Cup.
There’s a reason this feat is so challenging — the fatigue of winning a World Cup is difficult for teams to overcome in less than 12 months. The Americans saw this in 2016, when they came off a dominant 2015 World Cup victory only to fall in the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics.
An added year would also provide more time for star striker Alex Morgan — who is due to give birth to her first child in April — additional time to recover and return to the team.
Lloyd said she believes the postponement will also allow athletes to focus on their health and their families amid the pandemic. The captain said that canceled games and suspended training sessions have made it difficult for players to fully focus on the sport.
The U.S. Soccer federation canceled all previously scheduled matches through April meant to help the women’s national team gear up for the Olympics. Lloyd also plays for Sky Blue FC in the NWSL, which is under a training moratorium through April 5.
Without team training sessions, Lloyd said she has taken the time to unplug, working out at home and spending time with family.
“We’re all kind of in limbo,” Lloyd said. “There’s a lot of things out of our control, and there’s a lot going on right now at the present moment. … I think all of us athletes can now kind of take a breath and not stress about training and the preparation and know that we have a lot more time.”
Lloyd acknowledged the extra year’s wait before the Olympics could change the composition of the U.S. roster, cutting short the careers of older players. But Lloyd — who turns 38 in July — doesn’t believe the added year will affect her ability to contribute to the national team.
Ultimately, however, the captain said it doesn’t matter how the postponement impacts any teams — she believes it was the necessary decision for the health of athletes and the public.
“Obviously as an athlete, you want to compete,” Lloyd said. “All my teammates, the rest of athletes around the world want to compete, but I think this is the right thing to do. I mean, what’s going on right now in this moment is unprecedented and it’s bigger than any sport, and I think it was the right decision.”