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Carli Lloyd from USWNT: "I'll know the right time to hang the boots up"

USWNT star Carli Lloyd has a third Olympic gold medal on her mind rather than retirement, after notching 300th cap for USA.
By Ken Browne

She may have won Olympic gold and the World Cup twice with the United States Women's National Team (USWNT), but Carli Lloyd isn't finished with football yet.

In fact the American is continuing to write her name in football history books - becoming just the third player in history, male or female, to reach 300 international caps.

Lloyd, who turns 39 in July, played her 300th game in a friendly against Sweden on Saturday 9 April that ended in a 1-1 draw.

She joins an elite group in the 300-cap club with former teammates Kristine Lilly (354) and Christie Pearce Rampone (311).

Lloyd told US Soccer: "I just had this vision in my mind of how long I want to go in my career and when I want to determine the ending.

"I've just been chugging along and it's crazy because obviously Kristine Lilly, Christie Pearce Rampone are the only two, but I'm just plugging along, here for the ride and the journey."

"It's an honour because nothing is ever given; everything is earned." - Carli Lloyd

In the men's international game, Ahmed Hassan has the most appearances, representing Egypt on 184 occasions.

In January she returned from the first surgery of her career to play in the USA's first game of 2021 against Colombia.

Lloyd played the entire match and provided a perfectly weighted assist for Sky Blue FC teammate Midge Purse in a 4-0 victory.

"Great to clock in a 90, it's been 10 months... I’m feeling good — this is probably the best I’ve felt," she said in the post-match press conference, and followed her performance up with a substitute appearance in the 6-0 win over the same opposition four days later.

Lloyd has clear goals for the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021: she wants to be in the starting 11.

Grit and grind have taken this New Jersey-born footballer to the top of the game, and this isn't the first time she's had to overcome the odds, but now there's something new too: peace.

She's happy and at ease with herself, having reconciled with her family and been given time to think things through, and that might just make her more dangerous than ever.

"I just feel really good about where I'm at in life, who I am as a person and a player." - Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd's new lease of life

But make no mistake, Lloyd still lives to win.

On the bench for most of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, she called it "absolutely the worst time of my life," a change of USA coach from Jill Ellis has given her a new lease of life.

Under Vlatko Andonovski, she feels valued once more.

“She’s coming off a knee scope and playing 90 minutes," Andonovski said after a typically intense and committed Lloyd performance against Colombia, linking up the play nicely, engineering space and unafraid to have a pop at goal, assisting teammates.

“I think that’s incredible. It was just a good example for some of the younger players in terms of what it takes to be on the next level,” said the USA women's soccer coach.

But between being the example on the bench and setting the example on the field, there's no contest for Lloyd.

On fire in the second half of 2019 and the start of 2020, she scored 10 goals in 13 games for her country before the injury, following her club move from Manchester City in England to Sky Blue FC in New Jersey.

Now, making her fourth Olympic team is the big target.

"I just have to keep going, keep pushing on. I’ll know the right time to hang the boots up.” - Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd: Grit, grind, and goals

Lloyd is no stranger to overcoming the odds, in fact she's made a career of it.

Ever since she was cut from the U.S. Under-21 team back in 2003, she's had to prove her worth by working harder, training harder, wanting it more, and being that player in clutch moments.

And Lloyd has gifted USWNT fans some of the most legendary ones:

A match winner against Brazil in the 96th minute of the Beijing 2008 Olympic final, her two goals that led the team to a 2-1 victory over Japan in the final of the London 2012 Olympics, her hat-trick in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final...

Take your pick.

But with young risers coming up through the ranks, like exciting 21-year-old talent Catarina Macario who scored her first goal in the 6-0 victory over Colombia, Sophia Smith (20), and Jaelin Howell (21) also battling for places, it won't be easy for Lloyd to stay in the side.

But then again, it's never been easy, and no-one knows better what it takes to stay at the top.

"You know, it's hard," Lloyd continued, "When you're the number one team in the world for quite some time and you win championships, it's hard to stay at the top.

"It's somewhat easier to get there, but staying at the top and not just staying at the top, but continuously pushing on to be better than we were each year is incredibly difficult. But it's a credit to this team over the course of time.

"You know, I've been a part of this team for 16 years now and it's just it's a mindset, you know, it's ingrained in everybody. When you step foot on the field and you rub the red, white, and blue, you're putting on the responsibility of having a target on your back and having to just raise the bar.

"So it's amazing... We all know where we want to be."

The injury's been good for Lloyd

As strange as it sounds, and an athlete never wants an injury, but the time off has given her a new perspective and helped her hit refresh before the final act of her career.

"This was the longest hiatus and longest break mentally and physically that I’ve ever had in my career," she said in the postmatch media video call after the win over Colombia.

"I've been fortunate enough with injuries. I’ve broken a lot of bones (but) this was my first surgery. I thought I’d make it through my career without a surgery, but I was pretty, pretty close."

Taking the positives and enjoying the work is second nature to Lloyd.

"I've been down this road before... I'm pretty happy with where I'm at physically after an injury, I think that was the beauty of it. You know, the journey from kind of where I started, I basically had to start all over again."

Her teammates have noticed the difference too, Sam Mewis who scored her first hat-tick for the U.S. against Colombia watched her in training and said:

“She got better.”

Carli Lloyd: "All I have, to the end"

"The previous injuries that I've had, there's always been kind of a timetable and a rush to to somewhat get back," Lloyd continued.

"This gave me time to to literally shut off and spend time with my husband and reconnect with my family."

Estranged from her parents and siblings for a decade, the family has overcome their differences and there's a new sense of peace and happiness about her.

But it isn't the kind of happy that means losing her fire on the pitch or leaving the game behind to spend more time with loved ones, now she's even more determined to share new successes with them.

“I think it’s been pretty cool that things have come full circle for me. My family was at the start of my career and now they’re getting to be part of it at the end,” she said.

“I’m extremely grateful.”

Carli Lloyd has said in the past that she would bow out after Tokyo 2020, but with the way she feels and the return she's made after 200 days plus away from the pitch, who knows when she'll call it quits.

“I just want to give everything I have to help the team and better myself. I’m just going to give it all I have, to the end.”

After all, that's what she's always done.