Jonathan Tannenwald: Carli Lloyd reflects on the cost of greatness at the end of his career | Sirens


PHILADELPHIA – For almost 20 years, Carli Lloyd has defined herself by her competitive spirit.

All those training days spent grinding, like the title of his 2015 memoir, “When No One Was Watching.” All those years playing for Delran High, Rutgers and seven pro teams in three leagues. All those United States National Team practices that are often more difficult than games, leading up to the second international games played by a player.

And of course, all those goals and assists that made it possible to win all these trophies: two World Cups, two Olympic gold medals, an Olympic bronze medal, an English FA Cup and two player of the year awards. of FIFA. No player in the history of the American team has played more games in major tournaments (47); only Abby Wambach has more goals in majors (23) than Lloyd’s haul (20).

His inner fire still burns as Lloyd heads into his final days as a player. She will dress once again for the national team on Tuesday against South Korea in St. Paul, Minn. (8 p.m., FS1), then play their final regular season club game for Gotham FC next Sunday against Racing Louisville at Red. Bull Arena (3 p.m., CBS Sports Network). Whenever Gotham’s playoff race ends, her playing career will end as well.

But as the fire burns, he’s been joined by something we’ve rarely seen from Lloyd: a public self-reflection on what the fire has consumed along the way.

Even reporters who have known Lloyd throughout his career were surprised to hear him say on September 16, “I don’t think I’ve really, honestly, dealt with my career.”

It was just one line among many in what, until then, looked like a standard Zoom call. The United States had beaten Paraguay 9-0 in a game that was never competitive. Lloyd had scored five goals, including two in the first six minutes, so she spoke after.

This turn of phrase lingered.

“I feel like for 16 years I was just this icy player,” she said. “I didn’t allow myself to tire myself, I didn’t even allow myself to think about what I’ve done in my career.”

A few minutes earlier, she said: “I think I just was a player who was programmed not to interrupt my entire career and literally go all-in. Some may find it a little crazy, but in order for me to continue my career, I needed to approach it that way.

And a few minutes later, she said it more bluntly.

“I did it my way, I did it my way, I was different, I didn’t follow the crowd, I went against the grain,” she said. “But I had to do it to get to this. “

I needed to approach it this way… I had to do it to get there.

As you read these words, you came closer to the fire.

In the decade and more that I have covered of the best football player the Philadelphia area has ever produced, I have seen his practices, games and goals with my own eyes. And yes, I’ve seen his ego too – that confident, daring self-confidence that leads to things like scoring from the midfield line in a World Cup final.

The last of many one-on-one interviews I did with her came two weeks after that September game, before she returned to the NWSL at Subaru Park. I asked her if she really meant that she had “not dealt with her career”.

“One hundred percent honesty, I haven’t treated my career because I didn’t allow myself to process it,” she said. “Because I always put my head down, rolled up my sleeves, and I just worked, and I always wanted to have the mindset, every day, every game, to go out there like I had obtained nothing. “

The first time she allowed herself to look back and dwell on her career memories, she said, was when she worked with the longtime public relations chief of the US women’s team, Aaron Heifetz, on the press release announcing his retirement. It was released on August 16, just over a week after returning home after becoming the first American woman to score goals in four Olympics.

“It was my first time reading everything line by line,” she said. “I saw the stats, I saw the accomplishments and – yeah, I couldn’t believe the numbers and the stats. I think that’s something I’ll deal with a lot more when I’m done playing. But right now, I just want to savor these moments, I want to enjoy them.

Allow yourself to open up

Why hasn’t she done this treatment yet?

“I just had never been willing to allow myself to go out there with what I accomplished,” she said.

Can’t remember when your school won this state title? Need to settle a bet? A place for decades of valley sports.

I just had never been willing to allow myself to go …

It’s another look at what it took for Lloyd to not only reach the top of the world game, but stay there for as long as she did.

Of course, all the “when no one was watching” rhetoric sounded like a cliché after a while. But the stories about her not being one of the chosen prospects in America’s youth system that was always destined for stardom? And how did she come onto the scene after attending a university less glamorous than North Carolina, Stanford, and other traditional powers? They are all true.

What Lloyd did to achieve what she has was probably what it took to achieve what she has. And it may have come at a cost.

Some people will never forgive Lloyd for refusing to kneel in solidarity with his colored teammates. It is always a topic of discussion in the world of football.

We also may never know the true impact of Lloyd’s separation from her family for over a decade, or what prompted her to suddenly separate from her longtime trainer, James Galanis. She hasn’t gone into much detail publicly on these topics.

But we recently had a significant clue as to how Lloyd handled the weight of the moment she finds herself in now.

After the final whistle of the game at Subaru Park, Lloyd stood on the field for a ceremony in his honor. Her family, whom she reunited with last year, were standing a few feet away. Gotham FC general manager Yael Averbuch West stood a few yards apart. Lloyd’s teammates and Washington Spirit players stood in groups some distance behind her.

They were visible, but metaphorically Lloyd was alone. And she knew it.

She took a deep breath, looked up at the crowd, then looked down. She tried to hold back her tears.

For 16 seconds there was an astonishing and deep silence. Then Lloyd gathered and addressed the crowd.

A few minutes later, she met the media on another Zoom call. This time everyone knew it wouldn’t be ordinary.

“I’m a little more vulnerable,” Lloyd said, “and the emotions fly away.”

“I think for so long, so many people misunderstood me, what I was talking about,” she said. “I’ve been labeled so many things, I think so many people have had that perception of me. And I just wanted, you know, two things: to be the best footballer I can be, to help my team win championships, World Cups, Olympics; and I have just been on this mission to be the best I can be.

She knows how many people wanted her to be more than that, and has been for many years. Her remarks that she had to “stay away from the drama” and “walk at my pace” are targets for her critics, because for many of them there has been more than “drama”.

But these criticisms could allow a connection between Lloyd’s tunnel vision and his arrogance. Because they know that all the other members of the American team also have a big ego.

Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo, Abby Wambach – the list of the best players on the Women’s National Team spans 30 years and will go on for decades to come. Athletes do not reach the pinnacle of sport on the planet without unusual inner cruelty.

People usually don’t see any evidence of this when these players are on camera. They are polite, fun and often understated. When they are on the ground, however, they intend to run over you.

The USA team just wouldn’t be what it is without that mentality, as many talented opponents can attest who didn’t have that extra intensity gear. And Lloyd – who, by the way, is doing on his own terms by retiring now – is among the best examples.

“For so long in my career I just had this tunnel vision and I didn’t really lose a lot of emotions throughout it,” she said after the game in Chester. “That, I take advantage of it. I’m having fun there. I’m smiling, you know, I just feel a little more alive.

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