USWNT star Lloyd ‘playing best soccer’ of career

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USWNT legend Carli Lloyd joined our very own Mike Tirico on NBC Sports’ Lunch Talk Live show and had some pretty interesting things to say about her former coach Jill Ellis and believes she is playing the best soccer of her entire career.

Carli Lloyd, 37, was a substitute for much of the 2019 World Cup in France last summer and the legendary midfielder has previously spoken about not being happy about it. Why would she be? After all, she’s Carli Lloyd.

The former FIFA World Player of the Year also previously said that without a coaching change she would have walked away from the USWNT but Vlatko Andonovski has since replaced Ellis who stepped down in July 2019.

“2019 was very difficult for me, the last few years have been very difficult but I didn’t stop being a teammate, I supported every one of my teammates and I was there for them but I was still competing and I still felt I deserved to be out there, starting and playing a lot more than I did. Those were things I couldn’t control. The only things I could control was being respectful and being a good teammate and supporting everybody around me,” Lloyd explained.

“To now have a coach who really values people, values the improvement of individuals as well as the team but also holds everybody accountable. It doesn’t matter how old you are, doesn’t matter how young you are, everybody is treated the same. As long as you’re performing, you’re going to play. For me that is all I wanted. I wanted a fair shot. It is up to me to perform and get the job done on the field but I’m feeling really good. Physically I feel amazing, the fittest I’ve ever felt. Tactically, I feel like I am playing the best soccer of my career. I just have to keep building and keep getting better.”

There’s a lot to unpack here. It was clear Ellis and Lloyd didn’t see eye to eye, even though the former USWNT head coach led the team to back-to-back World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019.

The style of play Ellis wanted from the USWNT was heavily criticized and was based on physical strength, being direct and generally pummelling opponents. That’s not the way Carli Lloyd plays and many believe the USWNT will now play a more attractive style under Vlatko Andonovski.

Tirico then asked Lloyd if the summer Olympics in Tokyo being delayed a year to 2021 impacted her at all and if she planned to be available for the USWNT next summer, as she aims to win a third Gold medal in her illustrious career.

“Not really. I am actually kind of excited because it gives me and my teammates another year to train and compete and to just push on and to continue to get better,” Lloyd said. “I know it is obviously different with other sports because of when you are peaking and all of that but for a soccer player there are details which go with the training but it is not heavily reliant on when you’re pushing and when you’re not. I am thankful that it is at least postponed for another year. I am looking forward to another year of giving it everything I have to help the team.”

Ever the competitor, Carli Lloyd was asked about her insatiable appetite to keep improved and she gave a typically gritty answer.

“It comes from within. The will for me to want to succeed. It is the work. It is the grind. I am obsessed with the work. Every single day, if I’m not doing something to make myself better I don’t feel good about myself,” Lloyd said. “I’ve spent my entire career doing the right things on and off the field, taking care of my body and being consistent with everything. That is the key. Training. Eating. Sleep. You can’t switch off. The minute you switch off, somebody is going to come in and take your spot. For me it has been this will to improve. I’ve gotten better with age but that comes down to the work I put in every single day. I won’t stop until I hang up the boots because I want to walk away from the sport knowing that I did very single thing possible to be the best I could be.”