NEW YORK — Carli Llody turns 37 nine days after the U.S. women’s national team faces Netherlands for the World Cup title.
Lloyd has gone from automatic starter to strong option off the bench, a shift that might be associated with her age. Lloyd, however, insists she doesn’t think about her mileage.
“You can talk about age all you want,” Lloyd told Pro Soccer USA. “But at the end of the day, I know how to win and I want to do everything I can to help the team win. … I’ve just been a freak. I’ve been addicted to winning and that’s my most important thing is just wanting to win.”
For Lloyd, that has meant taking advantage of the opportunity that she has to help the U.S. She has scored three goals so far during the World Cup, with two coming during her only start of the tournament against Chile.
Lloyd’s run suits U.S. coach Jill Ellis just fine as she continues to make room for the two-time World Player of the Year on a team stacked with attacking talent.
“Carli helps us off the field, but it’s to score goals,” Ellis said following the U.S.’ 3-0 victory over South Africa in May. “I think that’s the role. Whatever the minutes, starting, not starting, it’s about being a game changer.”
Lloyd’s journey from a 2015 World Cup final hat trick in 2015 to the Americans’ run to the 2019 World Cup final has been about more than adjusting to a new role on the field and getting used to being a veteran off it. During the second decade of her professional career, Lloyd is looking to evolve as a player to help the U.S. win to another World Cup title.
“I think that for these last two, three years, I’ve really elevated my game,” Lloyd said. “I’m not just a one dimensional player. I’m, tactically, playing some of the best football, as far as just my thinking on the field and decision making and all that. It’s the fittest I’ve ever been, the sharpest I’ve ever been. I’ve just been, every single day, working as hard as I can.”
The forward has focused on being versatile in order to improve her tactical contributions. She noted an ability to play in midfield, a familiar position she has played throughout her career. Ellis has utilized Lloyd there as the tournament has progressed.
Lloyd said she can be useful against teams deploying various styles, regardless of position.
“You need a scrappy, tough game? I’ll be ready for that,” Lloyd said. “You need more of a skillful finesse, through balls? I’ll be ready for that. Whatever the game asks of me, I feel strongly that I’m able to contribute, no matter what.”
Perhaps the biggest change from 2015 to now, though, is that she has confidence in her skills, including a well-known ability to deliver when the time calls for it.
“For the first three World Cups, there was always kind of that, ‘Can I do it? Can I be an important player? Can I help this team?’ type of thing,” Lloyd said. “Now the belief that I have in myself is as strong as it’s ever been and I don’t know if that’s growing into your 30s and mid-30s and just not really caring what anybody thinks and just being genuinely just secure in who I am as a person and a player.”
While Lloyd may have lacked the self confidence, it rarely seemed to impact her past performances on the biggest stages.
“I think Carli just lives for those moments,” Ellis said. “And so there’s a trust, there’s a confidence, there’s an intensity about her for that.”
For Lloyd, this is likely her last trip to the World Cup — “never say never, but my husband might kill me,” she noted. She has little left to prove as a professional at this point. She’s held the top trophies and won the elite accolades during a memorable career. There is just one more thing that she would like to do in France.
“To show the world that I’m I’m not going away,” Lloyd said. “And I’m here to make a difference.”