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Lloyd: Coming off bench at World Cup “rock bottom of my entire career”

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The upper echelon of the USWNT player pool, especially the veteran generation, just swims in a different competitive gene pool.

Comments from a recent podcast featuring Carli Lloyd are the latest evidence of this, as the USWNT legend calls not starting regularly at this summer’s World Cup “the worst time of my life.”

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She says she was happy to be a part of it and happy for her teammates but doesn’t back down from the “worst” diagnosis. Yeah, you read that right.

“I’m not going to lie and sugarcoat it,” Lloyd said on Julie Foudy’s Laughter Permitted podcast. “It was absolutely the worst time of my life. It affected my relationship with my husband, with friends. It really was rock bottom of my entire career. But somehow, you see light at the end of the tunnel, and I can honestly say I’m having more fun now playing than I ever have in my career. I think I just learned a lot throughout it.”

To be fair, Lloyd hasn’t backed up anyone in almost a decade and has since won a Ballon d’Or. Not many elite athletes get used to being second (or fourth) fiddle, especially on a major stage like that.

The personalities on this team are as big as any produced by Ronaldo’s Brazil or Zidane’s France. Some may laugh at this, but it shows what a tremendous job Jill Ellis did in marshaling the team to two-straight World Cups, the first with Abby Wambach in a sub’s role and the second with Lloyd.

It also shows the marvelous competitive nature of Lloyd and the resilience of players who know they’d start for any number of teams in the world. Lloyd says in the podcast that she believed she was playing at near her best level despite being moved from midfielder to forward.

Obviously no player prefers a sub’s role to starting, but — wow — if it isn’t bewildering to hear Lloyd talk about her supporting role at age 37 being the worst time of her life. Different types.

USWNT counters soccer federation’s assertions on pay

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U.S. Soccer was misleading when it asserted some players for the women’s national team made more money than their male counterparts, the women’s team players said in court documents filed Monday.

The players say in the documents that the men’s pay would have been far greater if they’d had the same success on the field as the women.

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The filing was a response to a U.S. Soccer motion opposing the players’ request to certify a lawsuit seeking equitable pay as a class-action. The women asked a court last month to include all players called up to the national team, which could increase the class to more than 50 players.

Twenty-eight players, including stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, were part of the original suit filed against U.S. Soccer in March alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation between the men’s and women’s teams. A May 5 trial date has been set in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The federation has maintained that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result. Men’s team players are paid largely by appearance and performance, while the contract for the women’s team includes provisions for health care and other benefits, as well as salaries in the National Women’s Soccer League.

U.S. Soccer further argued last week that four players – Morgan, Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn – were each paid more than the highest-paid player on the men’s national team in four years over the period between 2014 and 2019. The four earned more even when NWSL salaries weren’t included, the motion said.

U.S. Soccer said because those players made more, they lack the standing to represent a class.

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“The women chose to have a guaranteed salary of up to $172,500 per year, and in addition to this salary, they earn game and tournament bonuses, and receive a robust package of benefits. While the players on our men’s national team can earn larger bonuses, they take more risk as they do not receive any guaranteed money or benefits within their pay-for-play contract structure,” U.S Soccer said in a statement.

The women’s filing Monday said the only reason those four players were able to earn more was “they worked in far more games, had far greater success and thus were able to earn more money in salary and bonuses even under the indisputably discriminatory set of the USSF’s compensation policies.” It said this didn’t constitute equal pay.

The players’ response maintains that the four players were paid less than one-third of what a male counterpart would have made if the men’s team had been as successful over the same period.

“This is the very definition of gender discrimination, which is illegal. USSF has repeatedly tried to distort these figures – including by hiring lobbyists, creating PowerPoint presentations with false data, trying to blame FIFA, and purposely manipulating the equation. But the math is simple: when the rates from the men’s CBA are applied to each woman player’s record and performance, the results show an unmistakably large pay gap,” said Molly Levinson, who represents the players in matters surrounding the lawsuit.

The women’s team won this year’s World Cup in France and had additional games leading up to the tournament, including qualification matches. The women also won the World Cup in 2015. The team played in victory tour matches following those World Cup titles.

The men’s team, meanwhile, did not make the field for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and had fewer matches and therefore fewer call-ups and training camps from 2017-18. The team has also transitioned to new coach Gregg Berhalter, who was hired last December.

U.S. plays to 1-1 draw in final game for retiring coach Ellis

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CHICAGO — Despite a goal by captain Carli Lloyd, the U.S. women’s national team was held to a 1-1 draw with South Korea on Sunday in the final game for retiring coach Jill Ellis.

Lloyd’s goal tied the game in the 37th minute, matching the score by South Korea’s Ji So-yun three minutes earlier. The draw, which gave the U.S. an 18-1-3 record under Ellis this year, came in front of 33,027 fans at Soldier Field, the third-largest crowd on the American team’s post-World Cup victory tour.

Lloyd appeared to score the go-ahead goal in the 93rd minute but was ruled offside on her shot from eight yards out. In the final minute of stoppage, Mallory Pugh had a point-blank chance but backup goalkeeper Kim Minjung got enough of her shot to deflect it off the crossbar.

Jessica McDonald’s header off the right post in the 83rd minute was the best chance to break the tie. Pugh failed to volley a 7-yard shot past Minjung in the 90th minute. The U.S. outshot South Korea 15-5.

Ellis, 53, was honored before the game with a jersey signed by the team and 132 written on the back, signifying the number of games she coached in a career that began with two stints as interim coach in 2012 and 2014. Her two world coach of the year honors came in 2015 and this year following the American victories in the Women’s World Cup.

While retiring as coach, Ellis will start her role as an ambassador for U.S. Soccer on Monday.

Ji opened the scoring in the 34th minute with an 18-yard shot that sailed just inside the left post, inches from the outstretched hands of American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. That culminated a South Korean ball-control effort that dominated the match for the first 35 minutes. It was Ji’s team-leading 55th career goal.

The U.S. tied the match three minutes later, with Lloyd heading Megan Rapinoe’s long pass over the head of goalkeeper Kang Ga-ae. The set-piece score, coming a minute after a yellow card to South Korea’s Lee Young-ju for an ankle-twisting tackle on Rose Lavelle, was Lloyd’s 13th of the year.

Midfielder Julie Ertz had the best American chance before Lloyd’s goal, left-footing a shot off the right post in the 26th minute after a Korean giveaway. Crystal Dunn’s deep-angle follow-up shot missed the target.

The American team returns to action against Sweden on Nov. 7 in Columbus, Ohio. The coach for that match has not been announced.

U.S. women’s soccer coach Jill Ellis preps for last game

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CHICAGO — Retiring U.S. Soccer women’s national team coach Jill Ellis already knows she’ll be emotional on Sunday at Soldier Field.

The two-time FIFA women’s coach of the year will lead the World Cup champions in the final game of their six-game victory tour when the U.S. team faces South Korea.

“We built the best team in the world,” Ellis said Saturday. “We were incredibly successful over the years. People have been drawn to this team because of the personality and the success.”

The 2-0 victory against South Korea on Thursday was Ellis’ record 106th, passing former coach Tony DiCicco for the most team wins before an announced crowd of 30,071 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It will be a bittersweet leave-taking after five years at the helm for Ellis and the players.

“We always have a quick meeting before our pregame meal, and that’s going to be hard to get through,” Ellis said. “They know I’m already getting emotional.”

Star forward Megan Rapinoe said Ellis adapted to a changing game and players over the years.

“Constantly trying to keep up with that, keep above it, with personnel and the way we’re been trying to play, she’s been pretty adaptable in that way,” Rapinoe said. “It would nice to send her out with a win after back-to-back World Cups.”

Forward Carli Lloyd said Ellis leaves the team’s legacy in a strong place.

“It’s been a fantastic journey to be a part of,” Lloyd said. “It’s finding a way. It took all 23 players, like it always does. Every major tournament, the story line is different. And it’s only going to get harder and harder. Winning is great, but without the journey, there would be no end bit.”

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher calls it a fitting celebration after their victory in France.

“This team has been something special,” Naeher said. “Coming off this summer … to celebrate Jill and what she’s done for U.S. soccer and this team.”

Ellis said she decided in December this would be her last year in charge, win or lose.

“If you’re blessed to do a back-to-back World Cup, it’s pretty unusual,” Ellis said. “There’s a shelf life to this job, I believe, and I think that’s healthy. It allows the ability to have change and perspective. It’s not like a college job, where there’s an incoming class.”

Ellis added she’s looking forward to attending more birthdays with her daughter, Lily.

“There’s a personal peace to that decision,” Ellis said. “I feel good. I feel complete.”

A new coach will be hired after U.S. Soccer selects a new general manager for the team (18-1-2). With assistant coach Tony Gustavsson also retiring after eight years, the coaching search is wide open heading into the Tokyo Olympics.

“The game has changed significantly,” Ellis said. “To the person who comes after me, I’d say this is not 1991 or 1999. There’s a lot more teams playing with a lot more investment. The margins are pretty fine. I had the benefit of being an assistant prior to taking the job, so I knew the players.”

The British-born Ellis announced her retirement in July. She played college soccer at William & Mary and was head coach at Illinois and UCLA before joining the U.S. national ranks as an under-21 coach in 2000.

Ellis became the U.S. team head coach in 2014 and led it to eight overall tournament titles, including the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles. The U.S. lost just seven matches during her tenure.

The 53-year-old Ellis said the new coach will have a “good sense of our players,” and “it’s just getting up to speed in the depth of the squad.”

USWNT: Ellis becomes winningest coach, Krieger celebrates 100 caps

Ali Krieger, USWNT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Megan Rapinoe had two assists in her first national team game since the World Cup and the United States beat South Korea 2-0 on Thursday night for its 17th straight victory.

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Coach Jill Ellis earned her 106th victory as coach of the United States, passing Tony DiCicco for most wins with the team. Allie Long and Mallory Pugh each scored in the team’s fifth straight shutout.

Rapinoe, who has been out with an Achilles injury since the United States won the World Cup in France, served up a free kick that Long, her Reign teammate, slotted for the goal in first-half stoppage time. It was Long’s eighth career goal.

Pugh added a goal on a header in the 76th minute. It was her 18th career goal, with Rapinoe collecting the assist before she was subbed out a minute later.

Seven U.S. players were not available for the game because of injury, including Sam Mewis, Kelley O’Hara, Morgan Brian, Ali Krieger, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan.

Before the game the team honored Krieger for 100 appearances with the team. She reached the milestone on May 16 against New Zealand but the ceremony was delayed by the World Cup.

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The moment was especially touching because Krieger’s father, Ken Krieger, was able to attend. Ken Krieger was recently in a serious car accident and spent over a week in intensive care. Also celebrating in a pre-game ceremony was U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger’s fiance. Harris also started the game in goal.

South Korea played at the World Cup this summer but lost each of its three group stage games.

The game was the second-to-last of the U.S. team’s post-World Cup victory tour. The United States will host South Korea again on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The match in Chicago will be coach Ellis’ last with the team. The two-time world coach of the year is s stepping down after leading the team to back-to-back World Cup titles.

The United States is 18-1-2 this season. The lone loss came to France in the first game of the year.