Earlier this summer, Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian and Meghan Klingerberg took time off from their day jobs as professional soccer players with the Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League to represent the U.S. at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. As you’re likely aware, since 25 million Americans watched the finals, the U.S. won its first World Cup since 1999. Lloyd in particular was brilliant, winning honors as best player in the tournament, and scoring three first-half goals in the 5-2 drubbing of Japan in the finals, including a once-in-several-lifetimes 54-yard shot that drove legendary soccer commentator Andres Cantor to scream “Goooaaaallll” for 38 seconds when it landed in the net.
We caught up with Lloyd to ask about the World Cup, the Dash and what it’s like to try to score on American goalie Hope Solo, which she’ll be doing later this month in Houston when the Dash face Solo’s Seattle Reign.
On what it meant for American soccer and women’s soccer for the U.S. to win the World Cup:
I think for U.S. Soccer, we knew what was riding on this World Cup – we hadn’t won it since ’99. There was a lot of pressure, but it was good pressure. I think it was a huge turning point – there was a weight lifted off our shoulders knowing that we were able to come away as World Cup champions, and knowing the future’s going to be very bright for the next Olympics and the next World Cup.
On the NWSL side and women’s soccer, we’re seeing a huge shift. We saw a huge shift with the ’99 World Cup. I was just a little girl back then. But it’s been a bigger shift this year – the social media coverage we’re seeing, the TV coverage – it’s been huge. People are taking notice, people who don’t watch soccer, people who aren’t fans of the game.
On what made this year’s team special:
Our desire, our will to want to be the best. Are there teams that a bit better than us, technically and tactically? Yes, absolutely. But the fact is we’re able to dig deep every time we’re able to step out on that field. If we’re down a goal, we’re still able to fight back.
On playing with Dash and USWNT teammate Morgan Brian:
Morgan is a great soccer player who knows the game really well, which makes it easier to play with her. She’s very soccer savvy, and we’ve played together over the years, paired together. She allows me to do what I do best, which is to get forward and create and have the freedom to go all over the place.
On her 54-yard goal in the finals:
I had practiced it years back, and hadn’t really come close. I’d tried it in a couple of games, and didn’t really come close. In the finals, I couldn’t have been more in the zone, more ready, or more prepared, and when I received the ball and took a touch around the defender, it enabled me to hit it the way I did. I looked up, I saw the goalkeeper was off her line, and I just went for it. Obviously, training and practice comes into play, but … it was amazing. After scoring the goal, I just remember laughing. I couldn’t believe it – I ran over to Hope Solo and started celebrating with her, and I remember one of my teammates saying, “Are you human?”
On playing against Hope Solo in NWSL games:
It’s fun to be able to see the national team players in these games, but it’s a battle. We’re all going for the same thing. We all want to win. It’s competitive, and yet we laugh when it gets physical. It’s fun. I’ll heckle Hope when we play her team and say things like, “You better watch out – I’ll laser one past you.” I’ve scored a couple against her in games … but she’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world. It’s hard to compare her with others because she’s on her own level. She sets the bar extremely high. She’s separated herself from everyone in the world, even on a national level.
The Dash, still in contention for one of four playoff spots, will finish the regular season with home matches against the Seattle Reign on August 21 and the Boston Breakers on August 30 at BBVA Compass Stadium. Tickets are available via the Dash’s website (http://www.houstondynamo.com/houstondash)
By Phil West
Photo credits: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dash