Team USA forward Carli Lloyd, 39, has announced her retirement from international football just two weeks after disagreeing with her teammates on the issue of kneeling during the American national anthem at the Tokyo Olympics as a protest against racial injustice and discrimination.
Lloyd preferred to stay standing rather than kneel alongside her fellow players and coaching staff in Japan, her stance markedly different to the likes of fellow attacker Megan Rapinoe, who is known for her political activism.
“When I first started out with the national team in 2005, my two main goals were to be the most complete soccer player I could be and to help the team win championships,” she reflected after making her announcement, which was widely expected given her age.
“Every single day I stepped out onto the field, I played as it was my last game. I never wanted to take anything for granted, especially knowing how hard it is to get to the top, but even harder to stay at the top for so long.”
Lloyd, who will finish her club season at NY/NJ Gotham, will be remembered as a legend of the women’s game: a two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time World Cup winner and two-time FIFA Player of the Year.
She is only the second player ever to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final - as she did against Japan in 2015, emulating England’s 1966 hero Geoff Hurst - and played an astonishing 312 times for her country, scoring 128 goals.
Lloyd had just become the oldest player the American women’s side has ever sent to the Games - in her fourth time participating - but insisted prior to the tournament that she was ready for one last challenge in Tokyo.
Team USA’s campaign ultimately ended in disappointment when they were knocked out in the semi-finals by Canada and had to settle for a bronze medal after beating Australia 4-3 in the third place play-off, a game in which Lloyd scored what proved to be a farewell brace.
In an interview with NPR prior to the Olympics, Lloyd offered an insight into her remarkable longevity: “I train an insane amount, but not to the point of doing too much and pushing myself to burnout phase. I’m really in tune with my body, and I know when I need to take a day off, and I know when I need to push myself.
“Daily ice baths, routine massages, sleep, hydration, nutrition - I’ve been saying it all along, it’s a consistent lifestyle for 17 years. And that’s why I’m still playing. It’s no real secret. But I think I have the discipline to want to do it day in and day out. Some people just can’t do that. But that’s the choice that I’ve made.”
Born in Delran, New Jersey, on 16 July 1982, Lloyd began playing football aged just five and developed a reputation for exceptional close control as she progressed through school and was named Girls’ High School Player of the Year by The Philadelphia Inquirer in both 1999 and 2000.
It was at this juncture that she decided to commit her future to the game, inspired by attending the opening game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999 at the Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, in which the US eased to a 3-0 win over Denmark.
Before graduating from Delran High School, she played in the amateur W-League for Central Jersey Splash, New Brunswick Power and the South Jersey Banshees.
Thereafter Lloyd attended Rutgers University from 2001 to 2004 and played for the Scarlet Knights women’s football team, also earning a BA in Exercise Science and Sport Studies.
Briefly returning to the W-League the summer after graduation, Lloyd played for the New Jersey Wildcats alongside future national teammate Tobin Heath, who was still at her side in the 2020 Olympics squad.
Her club career subsequently took her from the Chicago Red Stars to Sky Blue FC, Atlanta Beat, Western New York Flash and Houston Dash.
While at the Texas side in 2017, she was loaned out to Manchester City but made just six appearances in England, albeit scoring twice.
She is now back with Gotham, the successor side to Sky Blue FC, and has 45 goals in 130 games in total at club level, a record that does not reflect her dominance on the world stage where she rightly enjoys a reputation as a dependable big game performer.
According to a comically-outdated profile of Lloyd on the US Soccer website last altered in 2010, her footballing hero is Barcelona great Xavi, she loves Blackberry messenger (!) and her favourite TV shows are 24, Seinfeld, Grey’s Anatomy, Prison Break and 90210.
The site also reveals that she enjoys scrapbook-making and that the Lindy Hops ice cream parlour in her New Jersey hometown offers a flavour named in her honour: Carli’s Cake Batter Cookie Dough Kick.
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