July 26, 2012
By Michael Lewis
OFF THE BENCH
Lloyd doesn't mope, but scores the game-winner for the U.S. in Olympic opener
GLASGOW -- Carli Lloyd could have taken the easy way out.
|Carli Lloyd came off the bench to score the game-winner for the U.S.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
When the she discovered she was not going to be a starter for the U.S. Women's National Team at the Olympics, she could have moped and been a major distraction for her teammates. That was certainly a tough comedown for the player who tallied the game-win in the 1-0 gold medal win over Brazil in Beijing in 2008.
Instead, the Delran, N.J. resident put her best foot forward -- literally and figuratively.
Lloyd connected for the Americans' go-ahead goal in their 4-2 comeback win over France in their Olympic opener on Wednesday night.
"Everybody goes through ups and downs in their careers," Lloyd said. "There are 18 of the best players in the world playing on this team. There's are going to be players who start games. There's going to be players who come off the bench. Like Pia [Sundhage, U.S. coach] said. players coming off the bench are game winners. I just stepped up. I was prepared mentally and physically and that's what it took. It was a good feeling."
Lloyd was summoned as a first-half substitute for starter Shannon Boxx, who was forced from the game in the 18th minute at Hampden Park after suffering a quad injury.
"The last three games prior to this I got a little bit used to it. but I never stopped working," Lloyd said. "I dug deep and I remained confident. I knew that what i could bring to the team. There are not too many people who can. I was confident in what I could do, winning head balls, tackling, playing that holding role, playing that attacking role. My teammates know what I could do. The coaching staff knows. i just remained confident and kept it taking it day by day, mentally prepared as if I was going to come in the game. that's what made the difference."
Lloyd's attitude was not lost on her teammates.
"I'll tell you what, this team is so deep," said striker Abby Wambach, who scored his 139th goal in the match. "You can look down the bench and Pia has so many different options. Carli has been patient."
"Carli came in and did us proud. She did not let anything get to her head. It wasn't about ego. it was about coming on and supporting the team and doing whatever she could do to make sure we got those three points. Her goal was fantastic. She played a great game."
Goalkeeper Hope Solo agreed.
"I am impressed with the way she has handled it from day one," she said. "She is a rock. It doesn't mean Carli is less of a player. It doesn't mean she isn't playing well. She is still a leader on this team. People still look up to her and she's still playing well. It's not like her play has dropped off by any means. I think the way she has handled it, I have gained so much more respect."
Lloyd got her opportunity in the 56th minute.
French midfielder Sonia Bompastor slipped on the right flank while vying for the ball, giving Megan Rapinoe room to cross it to Lloyd, who fired home a 20-yard shot past goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
"It was a great pass by Rapinoe," Lloyd said. "The position I came in was bit of a more holding a player, so I wasn't getting myself in the box. I knew that everyone crashing in towards the goal. No one was marking me. Took a touch, set myself up and couldn't hit it more perfectly than I did."
Lloyd has scored many goals from outside the penalty area, something that many players try.
"First of all, she has a belief in herself," Wambach said. "When you are from 35 to 20 yards out, you have to have to have belief and you have to have a good shot. . . . She hit it perfectly. I can always tell when she is going to shoot. So I looked at the goal and I had this perfect view. It was a great shot. She earned that. She earned the right to be on the field. I don't care who starts for this game, whoever finishes the game are going to be people help us win game and win championships."