The overlapping, intersecting worlds of Carli Lloyd, superstar, met Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium when Lloyd, the two time defending FIFA Women’s Player of the Year and the top attraction on her NWSL club, the Houston Dash, spoke to the assembled media while in town to promote Manchester City, the club she played for earlier this year, even taking time to “jokingly” lobby for a job with the as of yet non-existent NYCFC women’s club.
Lloyd had been part of Houston’s 2-1 loss at Portland on Saturday morning, scoring the lone Dash goal from a penalty kick, having clocked 65 minutes Thursday night as the U.S. WNT defeated Japan 3-0 in the finale of the Tournament of Nations.
The 35-year-old veteran might have considered resting up for Houston’s home game next Sunday versus FC Kansas City – but duty called. Lloyd acknowledged some wear and tear from her busy schedule drawing laughs when asked if she had watched the Euro final. “I was sleeping during part of it,” Lloyd said regarding the Netherlands 4-2 win over Denmark. The U.S. WNT captain explained. “I had just gotten on a red eye this morning from Portland, played a game Thursday night, played a game Saturday morning.”
Lloyd was impressed by the Euro final saying, “the bit I saw was definitely a very entertaining match. Good quality from both sides, lots of goals.” The U.S. World Cup hero welcomed the increased competition in her sport. “When I first got on the national team you had three or four teams that would pose a threat to us.” “Now,” Lloyd said, “it’s mostly everybody.”
But what about Lloyd’s club team? While Lloyd was fulfilling her dream of playing in Europe the NWSL season got underway without her, and the Dash had a difficult time of it minus their leader. A 2-1 start was quickly forgotten when the Dash lost six consecutive matches including Lloyd’s return, a 4-2 home loss to Orlando on June 17.
The playoffs looked like a dead issue, then the Dash reeled off four wins and two draws prior to dropping a 2-1 decision on the road at Portland on Saturday, the day before Lloyd’s New York appearance.
That run jump started Houston’s playoff hopes, and given Houston’s precarious playoff chances I wondered if Lloyd had any regrets on leaving her teammates to fend for themselves at the start of the 2017 campaign. So, I asked her.
“Um, you know I don’t think I’ve ever looked at my career and thought I regret this, or I regret that,” Lloyd began. “I have carefully evaluated every situation and scenario that I’ve been in to make the best ultimate decision for me, personally, and to have gotten that experience, the timing was perfect and it was unfortunate that, yes, you know my third season here with the Dash I would be missing that first half of the season.”
“But,” Lloyd said, pressing ahead, “I’ve come back and I’m hungry and I’m trying to help the team push for a spot, so I think it’d be worse if we just kept going down further and further in the standings.” “We were dead last and now we’re sitting a point behind a playoff spot.” (Four after the weekend results). “So,” Lloyd concluded, “we’re right there and I’m going to do all I can to keep pushing for that spot.”
Houston has played 16 of the 24 games on its NWSL schedule, winning two and losing seven pre-Carli while compiling four victories, one loss, and two ties since her return.
David Beckham and Frank Lampard were pilloried for making decisions similar to Lloyd’s while with MLS clubs the LA Galaxy and NYCFC. Lloyd and Orlando striker Alex Morgan, who missed part of this season while at Lyon, have not drawn the same reaction.
There are big differences in salary, etc and Lloyd has done an awful lot for women’s soccer in this country and around the world, and has earned some leeway but what if Houston should fall just short of the first playoff berth in its short history?
Any regrets then?