Carli Lloyd discusses time at Man City, state of USWNT and more

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Carli Lloyd has undoubtedly become one of the faces of women’s soccer, not just in the United States but globally.

[ MORE: Possible starting XIs for all 20 Premier League clubs ]

The U.S. Women’s National Team star has done it all. From helping the U.S. hoist the FIFA Women’s World Cup title in 2015 to being named the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, Lloyd has seen her stardom grow over the years, and that’s what brought the 35-year-old midfielder to Manchester City this past season.

Lloyd had proven herself on the international level with the USWNT and domestically in the NWSL and WPS (prior to that), but when an opportunity came knocking to complete a loan spell in England, it simply wasn’t something she could pass up.

“I’ve always wanted to go overseas to play, but it had to be the right fit,” Lloyd told reporters on Sunday prior to the New York Derby. “The door opened up to go and play for Manchester City and all the stars aligned.

“It’s been a great organization to fight for, to work for and kind of see the evolution of all their teams.”

Lloyd played an important role for the Lady Citizens during her spell with the club, scoring three goals in 10 matches across all competitions and helping guide Man City to an FA Women’s Cup title — where she scored in the final.

The Manchester City also fell just short of Champions League glory in 2017, losing 3-2 on aggregate in the semifinals to fellow American Alex Morgan and Lyon — who went on to win the competition.

Morgan also spent time in Europe this season on loan in France, but has since returned to her Orlando Pride club in NWSL.

When asked about her transition to life in England, Lloyd jokingly stated that she “didn’t drive for about the first few weeks.”

Additionally, the USWNT star spoke about how her experiences in England will follow her for the rest of her life, including getting to know Manchester City men’s manager Pep Guardiola.

“I can look back in 10, 15 years time and say that I lived in the same apartment complex as Pep Guardiola and exchanged texts with him,” Lloyd said.

“It was fantastic playing for the women. They really pride themselves on doing all they can to make it the best women’s club in the world and they’re on their way. I’m really excited to follow them and watch them grow.

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Since her time with the Citizens ended in May, Lloyd has since returned to the U.S., where she plays for the Houston Dash of NWSL.

At this point, she says her biggest focus is to help the Dash reach the NSWL playoffs, which is something the club has failed to do in its first three seasons in the league.

The Dash are currently three points behind the Orlando Pride for the sixth and final spot in the postseason.

“I’m going to do all I can to help the club reach a playoff spot,” Lloyd said.

On the national team front, Lloyd remains one of the key figures in Jill Ellis’ side, despite this being an off year for the USWNT in the World Cup cycle.

The women’s squad has had their share of difficulties in 2017, losing matches to England, France and most recently Australia in the Tournament of Nations.

However, Lloyd recognizes that results during this calendar year don’t necessarily reflect how good the USWNT will be in the coming years and that finding players to help strengthen the squad will boost the nation’s chances of hoisting another World Cup title in 2019.

AP Photo/Eugenio Savio

“I would assess it in a couple of different ways,” Lloyd said when asked about the current state of the USWNT. “One, it’s an off year. It’s a transition year. There are some experimentations going on at the moment. Do you remember in 2014/2015 when we lost to France? Everybody just remembers us winning the World Cup in 2015.

“Me as the player, you always want to be in peak form. You always want to be playing at your best, but in order to break these barriers you need to go backwards sometimes and put the pieces back together again in order to jump up a few more levels. I think that’s where we’re at right now and trying to look for more player depth within the squad.

“We’re all trying to do what we can and as we get closer to 2018 we’ll kind of hone in on everything. It’s obviously unfortunate not being able to win all the time, but that’s not the way women’s soccer is going anymore. It’s a lot harder. At the end of the day, 2019 is the real focus.”

For the New Jersey native, 2019 could very well be her last showing for both club and country, according to the former Rutgers Scarlet Knights standout.

[ MORE: Villa, NYCFC show courage with comeback win against Red Bulls ]

Lloyd has represented the USWNT since 2005, making 242 appearances for the Stars and Stripes and scoring 97 goals in the process.

“The plan is this next cycle,” Lloyd said. “For me, age is just a number. It’s all about evolving. Every part of my career, every phase of my career has been something different. Now, I think it’s about being more sophisticated.

“Players are out to get the ball away from me. They’re out to kick me. I’m in the spotlight, so everybody thinks that I need to score a hat-trick every time I’m on the pitch. It doesn’t happen like that.

West Ham to friendly neighbors Dag & Red: “Will help save our club”

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English Conference Premier side Dagenham and Redbridge has seen better days, and is getting a hand from a Premier League pal.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

West Ham United will pay a visit to Dag & Red as part of the latter’s #SaveTheDaggers campaign, and the March 21 date will cost fans between $7 and $21 to see a top flight side at 6,000-seat Victoria Road.

Dagenham and Redbridge chairman Paul Gwinn said, “It really will help save our club.”

“So please come on down to the Chigwell Construction Stadium for an additional night of football. Bring a friend, or two, or more and we can use the gate takings to help get us back on track,” reads a press release.

Dag & Red was founded in 1992 and climbed as high as League One in 2011, and plays just 2.5 miles from West Ham United’s training ground. Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle are among Dag & Red alums in the Premier League.

It’s a terrific gesture from West Ham, and is even more impressive in the United States where the growing club game is increasingly cutthroat (especially between non-synced leagues).

Angry Di Francesco extremely quotable after Roma loss

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AS Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco absolutely roasted his charges after i Lupi tossed aside a Cenzig Under-inspired lead to fall 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday.

Di Francesco had praise for Edin Dzeko, who assisted Under’s goal, as well as goalkeeper Alisson, but was mostly enraged by his side.

[ MORE: Recap + Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Rather than construct a narrative, we’re going to point out our five favorite selections from Di Francesco’s post-match talk.

4) “The difference was that in the first half we tried to hurt them while in the second we were looking to hold on – to what? I don’t know.”

— “To what? I don’t know” is hilarious. Di Francesco’s side has posted some serious wins this season, including killing off Chelsea 3-0 at home and coming back from 2-0 to draw the Blues at Stamford Bridge. He doesn’t preach sitting back.

3) “There were far too many schoolboy errors – even by players with a wealth of international experience.”

— Schoolboy errors!

2) “I saw two completely different teams out there today. There were lots of players I should have taken off after we conceded the first goal.”

— Again, one mistake by a number of players on Facundo Ferreyra is enough for Di Francesco. He’s not just happy to be here.

1) “I can’t imagine we’d get arrogant just because we’re winning an important game. It’s not as if Roma are used to reaching the final every year.”

— When you’re willing to essentially rip an entire club’s history — Roma’s been to just two UCL quarterfinals since losing the final to Liverpool in 1984 — you’re putting your footprints in new cement.

Europa League preview: Rating every second leg

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Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund are one of many teams with their UEFA Europa League fates realistically in the balance come Thursday’s second legs of the Round of 32.

[ MORE: Sevilla 0-1 Man Utd | Mourinho reacts ]

Aside from a sextet of big teams posting blowouts, there’s still hope for the Round of 16 and a step closer to an automatic berth in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.

Basically done

Atletico Madrid 4-1 Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Lisbon 3-1 Astana — 1 p.m. ET
Arsenal 3-0 Ostersund — 3:05 p.m. ET
Milan 3-0 Ludogorets Razgrad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Spartak Moscow — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga 0-3 Marseille — 3:05 p.m. ET

In four of these cases, the heavy favorites emerged with multiple goal leads and at least three away goals.

Actually done

CSKA Moscow beat Red Star Belgrade 1-0 on Wednesday to win 1-0 on aggregate.

Unlikely, but big club lurks

RB Leipzig 3-1 Napoli — 1 p.m. ET
Villarreal 1-3 Lyon — 1 p.m. ET

In the case of Napoli, their 3-1 home loss to Leipzig was stunning but it’s impossible to rule out a club with such firepower. Villarreal trails by two to Lyon, but is home and dangerous.

Advantage one side, but anyone’s guess

Lokomotiv Moscow 3-2 Nice — 11 a.m. ET
Lazio 0-1 FCSB — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit Saint-Petersburg 0-1 Celtic — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg 2-2 Real Sociedad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Atalanta 2-3 Borussia Dortmund — 3:05 p.m. ET

Salzburg’s two away goals in a draw feels like a one-goal lead, and the one-goal matches are especially interesting. In the case of Atalanta, 1-0 to the Serie A side could undo Michy Batshuayi‘s first leg heroics for BVB.

Wide open

Plzen 1-1 Partizan Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 AEK Athens — 1 p.m. ET

Yes, nil-nil will get it done for the hosts, but there wasn’t a 0-0 in the entire group of first legs.

De Gea remarks on that save after Man Utd draws Sevilla

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It was probably the save of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16’s first legs, as David De Gea slapped away Luis Muriel’s bid to give Sevilla a halftime lead over Manchester United on Wednesday in Spain.

[ MORE: Recap | Mourinho reacts ]

Playing in his home country, De Gea had a massive outing in the scoreless draw.

The defiance of Muriel was De Gea’s second big save of the first half’s closing moments, and one of eight in the match.

“It was a good moment, a good save of course, especially because of the moment in the game. It was the last minute of the first half, it was important to not concede a goal. We defended well. They had control of the game, but it remains open.”

Watch the save below, and then catch De Gea against Chelsea on Sunday as two of the Premier League’s biggest clubs duke it out for Top Four positioning at Old Trafford (Watch live Sunday at 9:05 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).