Followers of women’s football know full well the influence that Carli Lloyd has had in recent years. The USA co-captain drew worldwide attention in 2015 when she led the Stars and Stripes to a third FIFA Women’s World Cup™ title in Canada before deservedly winning the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award.
The 34-year-old remains an important part of her country’s national team and their aspirations to defend their World Cup title in France in 2019. Though 2016 proved a disappointing one after the Americans missed the podium at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Rio, Lloyd’s performances for USA earned her a place on the shortlist for The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2016 award, which will be presented in Zurich on 9 January.
While Lloyd’s year was dominated by international duty with the US, she also made a handful of appearances for her club Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), scoring five goals in seven appearances during her second season with the Texas outfit.
Though the midfielder’s time with Houston has been limited over the past two years, her professionalism and commitment as a Dash player has always impressed coach Randy Waldrum.
“Some perceptions about her may be different than the reality is, but my experience of her here in Houston has been, first and foremost, she’s been a great pro,” Waldrum said in an exclusive interview with FIFA. “She’s very diligent about taking care of her body, doing the things away from the pitch to make sure she stays at the peak of her game.
“On the field with training, she’s great as a pro in the sense that every day, she’s committed to the high standard that’s been set and her work rate has been amazing in training. She’s a great role model for our young players because of that work ethic.”
The ‘day-to-day’ environment
Where international football involves short spells of time together for players and coaches, the club level offers more regularity of training and matches with the same group. It is an environment that has provided Waldrum with a unique perspective working alongside Lloyd on a day-to-day basis during the season.
“The thing I enjoy about working with her is she’s got enough experience and been in the game long enough with a number of different professional teams that she’s really, in a lot of ways, someone you can bounce ideas off,” Waldrum revealed. “She buys into the way we want to play, but she’s also very willing to come in and say ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’, which is great.
“Most of my team, quite frankly, are young. I don’t have a lot of those older, experienced players on the squad, so when we do have her around at training, she’s really good with that [providing her wisdom and experience].
“I think the other piece is she’s always there afterwards doing extra work, which I think is great for the young players to see. A player of stature willing to stick around and do extra fitness work or extra ball work, whatever it might be, she’s almost always there putting in the extra time. It’s really nice to work with players like that on a day-to-day basis.”
Leading by example
Lloyd’s role with Houston has been to provide a cutting edge up front, having led the Dash’s attack line during her appearances for the club. It is those qualities that have made her a leader in Waldrum’s youthful squad.
“When she wears the captain’s armband for the US, and even for us at times with the Dash, she’s not that vocal,” Waldrum said. “She’s not that person that is going to motivate vocally her team-mates, but she’s a great leader in the respect of the example that she sets.
“If you look at our team and our team’s results when she’s there to when she’s not there, the stats don’t really lie. We struggle a bit at times offensively and to get results when she’s not there. When she is there, without words being said, there’s this aura that she has around her that elevates the players’ confidence. We’re a completely different team when we have her, as we’re so much more fluid offensively, than when we don’t.”
Lloyd’s ability to a make a difference has Waldrum looking forward to the 2017 season, as the midfielder is expected to be available for most of Houston’s upcoming campaign, with the Dash aiming to improve on last season’s eighth-place finish in the ten-club NWSL.
“To be honest, I’m quite excited about next year, as it’s going to be the first time we basically have her all season,” he said. “We’ve had her so randomly the last couple of years, even though we appreciate the time we have her, it’s hard to get that continuity. I think this next year, year-and-a-half, the sky could be the limit for us, so I’m really anxious to have her on a full-time basis.”