U.S. Women's National Team
Carli Lloyd Says US Women 'Need More Hunger & Will'
October 27, 2016
WHEN THE UNITED STATES women’s national team exited the 2016 Olympics much earlier than expected, many fans and pundits unfairly focused their ire on midfielder Carli Lloyd.
Despite coming into the tournament after a long injury layoff and despite providing the game-winning goals in group-stage matches against New Zealand and France, Lloyd failed to put herself on the scoresheet in the Olympic quarterfinals against Sweden when the U.S. needed her most. The match finished 1-1 after extra-time and the Swedes managed to bounce the Americans out of the tournament in a penalty-kick shootout.
Since that moment, only two months ago, the U.S. women have begun a number of changes as the team begins preparation for the 2019 World Cup.
Lloyd, however, remains exactly the same.
On Sunday against Switzerland, the American star put on a dazzling display, showcasing her trademark shooting skills accompanied by an impressive array of passes that ripped the Swiss defense to shreds.
After the contest, which the U.S. won 5-1, Lloyd addressed her thoughts on 2016.
“It’s been bittersweet,” said the midfielder. “Obviously, I’m getting married soon, so it’s been something to look forward to. I would have liked to have won an Olympic gold medal. You always learn from your failures. You learn from your losses more than your wins. For this team to push on for the next cycle—not that I wouldn’t have liked to have won a gold medal—but I think it’s good for everybody, coaching staff, players.
“We need more hunger. We need more will, desire. That’s really what it’s all about. For me, 2016 was good. Could I have been better? Absolutely. Everybody can always be better than they think they were, but now it’s about getting married and taking a little time off and then rebuilding and getting after it again.”
Head coach Jill Ellis characterized Lloyd’s performance against the Swiss as “superb,” and took time to point out Lloyd’s passing, positioning, and decision-making from the No. 10 position on Sunday. Ellis also argued that off-field distractions may have kept Lloyd from her best in 2016.
“She’s finished  on a high note with this game,” said the coach. “She battled a bit of injury during the year. Credit to Carli, it’s probably been one of the most challenging years she’s had in terms of a lot of off-the-field stuff.”
Ellis later added, “I’m excited to see where she comes back after she’s married."
Over the years, Lloyd has played a number of positions for the U.S., including roles as the team’s holding midfielder, box-to-box midfielder, attacking midfielder, forward, and even occasionally on the wing. Her last major move came midway through the 2015 World Cup, when Ellis moved her into the No. 10 position. That switch unlocked the American attack as the team went on to win its first world title in 16 years with Lloyd scoring a legacy-sealing hat trick in the final against Japan.
Despite that brilliant performance, Lloyd’s critics always seem waiting for their moment to pounce. Last Wednesday, in the team’s new 3-5-2 alignment, Lloyd played up top and had a quiet night. Even though Lloyd had tallied four times for the U.S. in the three games since the Olympic setback, that one performance seemed enough for those critics to find their voice yet again.
Then, on Sunday, Ellis slipped Lloyd back into the No. 10 spot. This time, having two forwards to work with—instead of only one target in the 4-2-3-1 the team has used for the past year and a half—Lloyd diced up the Swiss defense at will. On five separate occasions she put her teammates in behind Switzerland’s backline and scored two brilliant strikes of her own.
However, that performance will be the last for Lloyd in 2016 and the Americans will have to make due without her in the team’s final two matches of the calendar year. Lloyd will miss the games in order to get married.
“I will be missing the next set of games,” said Lloyd. “It’s really hard to predict the schedule a year-and-a-half in advance.”
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.