By Kevin Koczwara
Carli Lloyd holds down the midfield for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team [USWNT]. Her presence in the midfield for the U.S. has been a major part of the team’s success over the past few years.
Lloyd played all 600 minutes of the 2008 Olympics for the USWNT in Beijing and scored the game winning goal of the gold medal game against Brazil from 18 yards out with her left foot in extra time. Her goal clinched the U.S. the gold medal. After the goal and the gold medal, Lloyd was named U.S. Female Soccer Player of the Year.
Lloyd played for Rutgers College in her home state of New Jersey for her four collegiate years and left the school as its all team leader in points with 117 assists and 50 goals, impressive numbers.
Now, Lloyd plays for Sky Blue FC in Piscataway Township, New Jersey, after signing with the club as a free agent after one season with the Chicago Red Stars. Sky Blue is one of the seven original members of Women’s Professional Soccer [WPS].
The league has seen its fare share of ups in just two years, but Lloyd has hope for the league and for soccer in general in the states.
Currently Lloyd is training with the USWNT for its upcoming World Cup qualifying matches. The team looks poised to make a run in the 2011 World Cup in Germany, and if it hopes to push for a better result than in 2007 — the U.S. finished third behind — Lloyd will continue to grow as a player and lead the midfield like she did in 2008 at the Olympics.
I spoke with Lloyd about the WPS, her ascent to the top of the USWNT pecking order, and the upcoming World Cup. Here is the transcript:
How do you see the league evolving after two seasons?
I think it’s [WPS] good. Obviously there are some financial decisions they [the owners and the league] need to make. There are going to be some cuts in order for the league to survive. Teams need to continue to cut their losses. That will be a factor, but I think if it [WPS] makes it through next year, with it being a World Cup year, there is a strong possibility for it to continue, which is really important.
How will next year’s World Cup affect the WPS?
I think it [the World Cup] is positive, but on the other hand teams may be losing other internationals. We are not sure if those players will be coming over to play, and then the U.S. players have a pretty busy schedule with the U.S. National team. It’s tough. With the World Cup and the WPS next year, it will definitely help promote soccer in the U.S and help the league grow. If we can come out and do well, it will benefit everybody.
What do you see in the future for the WPS?
One year at a time. It is really hard to look at anything further than that. We just have to get through this next year and make some changes and hope that it [the WPS] stays afloat and then go from there. I hope that in five years it would still be around.
What was one of the biggest challenges this year for the WPS?
The longer season was a bit tough for people. People that had college, jobs and having that month go a bit extra was tough for them to get back and miss some of the season. We just have to continue to make it better and get more people to come out to the games and keep promoting it.
Do you see women’s soccer, or soccer in general, growing globally?
I think it’s [Women’s soccer around the world] getting better and better. You take the MLS for example, I think that’s come a long way. Soccer has improved. The attendance has been decent. More people have been watching. With the men’s World Cup there’s a lot of people supporting the U.S. It was great. That’s what we need. We just got to get it on the women’s side.
What are the chances of the U.S. Winning the World Cup next summer?
I think we’ve got a really good chance of winning it. our first obstacle is qualifying. We go to Cancun [Mexico] at the end of this month, that is the first important thing. We need to take it one step at a time. It isn’t going to be easy. The World Cup is going to be really hard. There are a lot of teams playing well and there are a lot of good teams now. There is a lot of depth out there now. I think our chances are really good.
Who could be the biggest challenger in your way to winning the World Cup?
Germany is hosting, they’re going to be really tough. Brazil’s always up there. Norway is tough. Japan is playing well. You just can’t underestimate any team that is in it [the World Cup]. It’s a battle. It is way different than it was a while ago. The teams are evolving. There isn’t a huge gap from other teams to us. I still believe there is a gap because we are fit, we are athletic, but as far as teams being able to compete with us, it’s definitely a lot harder.
What was the moment that sparked your interest in playing soccer professionally?
For me, there wasn’t a moment. I always loved the game. I was very dedicated, very passionate about it. I had a lot of people telling me i had potential, that one day I could play on the National Team. But I didn’t believe it and I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t have that confidence. Once I met my trainer, James Galanis — I have been working with him since 2003 — he did a complete 180 of me and got me back on track and really believed in me. He is my go to person who helped me get to this level.
How did you meet Galanis?
He [James Galanis] actually started training my brother’s team and my dad just went up to him and said, ‘hey my daughter really needs your help, can you train her?’ There was a discussion about costs and how much it was going to be, but James said, ‘I’m not going to charge you anything. I will train her, work with her. The only thing I ask is that she tells the truth when she makes it.’ This was before I had made it, and I’ve continued to grow and we keep knocking over obstacles. He is now the Atlanta Beat [WPS] coach for next season.
Kevin Koczwara is a contributing writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.