World Cup winner Carli Lloyd was on hand at Yankee Stadium to watch the Hudson River Derby between New York City FC and the Red Bulls on Sunday. She took a few minutes to talk about her experience with City Football Group as well as her thoughts on her future.
Lloyd made waves this year when it was announced that she would be headed abroad and joining Manchester City through the end of the 2017 FA WSL Spring season. Lloyd had never played for a club outside of the United States despite her tremendous success on the international level with the Olympic and Women’s National Team. When asked to describe her experience with Manchester City she needed only three words: “It’s been phenomenal.”
Playing in England
“I’ve always wanted to go overseas and play somewhere but it had to be the right fit and when the door opened up to go play for Manchester City WFC it was, basically all the stars aligned and it was something that I was really, really excited about.”
Lloyd was warmly received in Manchester City by both the fans and the club. She managed five goals over twenty total appearances for MCWFC and helped the defending champions finish level on points with Chelsea LFC however the goal difference was far too vast to overcome. Despite not winning the league Lloyd considered her time in England a massive success. “It opened up a lot of connections, a lot of doors, hence why I’m here now. It’s been a great organization to play for, to work for and then just to see the evolution of all their teams in Sydney, NY FC [sic] here, Man City as well. It’s been good, women’s soccer is growing which is absolutely huge and hopefully we’ll get a women’s team up this way in some short time but it’s been great and I’m looking forward to the American derby.”
New York City would indeed have its own women’s team if City Football Group Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has his way. “The decision for us as a group to get into women’s football, to invest in women’s football, has really, I think, proven to be a success,” Al Mubarak said. “It’s been a great success in Melbourne and it’s going to be a success in Manchester, and I think you’ll see us doing that potentially in New York at some point.”
Mubarak is one of the many influential people Lloyd would have met with while in Manchester. From playing in the Champions League against her national team teammate Alex Morgan to speaking with a coach who’s won everything there is to win in Pep Guardiola, Lloyd spoke highly of her experience abroad.
“From a life experience, from a cultural stand point, to look back on that moment in ten years, fifteen years time and say I moved over to Manchester, I lived in the same apartment complex as Pep Guardiola and exchanged text messages with him which was a pretty surreal moment, but it’s fantastic playing for the women,” Lloyd said. “They really pride themselves in doing all they can to make them the best women’s club in the world. They’re on their way and I’m gonna be really excited to follow and watch them continue to succeed.”
No regrets for her move
While Lloyd and everyone at MCWFC was excited with the move, the Houston Dash and their fans could be forgiven for not being as enthusiastic as Carli was. Her season in England meant that she would miss most of the first half of the Houston Dash’s NWSL season. “I don’t think I’ve ever looked at my career and thought ‘I regret this or I regret this or that,’ I have carefully evaluated every situation and scenario that I’ve been in to make the best ultimate decision for me personally, and to have gotten that experience, the timing was perfect.”
The timing which was perfect for her personally meant that the Dash to deal without their star playmaker. Houston finds themselves in 7th place, but only 4 points out of a playoff position.
“It was unfortunate that yes, my third season here with the Dash I would be missing that first half of the season but you know I’ve come back and I’m hungry and I’m trying to help the team push for the spot so I think it would be worse if we just kept going down further and further in the standings. We were dead last and now we’re sitting a point behind a playoff spot so were’ right there and I’m gonna do all I can to keep pushing for that spot.”
What the future holds for Carli Lloyd
The 35-year-old Lloyd has been playing at the highest levels of the game since she was in high school. Playing for teams such as the Central Jersey Splash, South Jersey Banshees and New Brunswick Power she set herself apart from her peers before going to play at Rutgers. It was at Rutgers where she met current NYCFC radio broadcaster Glenn Crooks, who led the Rutgers Women’s soccer team to two NCAA tournament appearances during Lloyd’s tenure there.
Unfortunately for Lloyd she spent a good chunk of her prime years out of the game, simply because there was no top flight women’s league in the United States. However, in 2009 the Women’s Professional League emerged and Lloyd picked up where she left off. She suffered some injuries during her time in the WPL, including missing a large stint of the season with a broken ankle. Surely enough, she fought back and made her way back onto the pitch but adversity followed her as the WPL folded in 2012. She had to wait until 2013 for the National Women’s Soccer League to start before resuming her playing at the top club level.
While her club and league’s have drastically changed throughout her time there was one constant: the US Women’s National Team. In fact, Lloyd was such a constant force for the national team that to this day she holds the records for most starts in a season (35, tied with Christie Rampone) and most consecutive starts (32). Lloyd has made 242 appearances for the national team through this day, good enough for sixth most all-time so naturally the question begs to be asked: how much longer will Lloyd play?
“The plan is this next cycle (2019 Women’s World Cup), you know for me age is just a number” she said after a brief pause. “I think that you become smarter, more efficient with age, it’s all about evolving every part of my career and every phase of my career has been something different, now it’s about being more sophisticated.
Lloyd pointed out that now that she’s returned from abroad and has been named the FIFA Female Player of the year that she has a target on her back. “Players are out to steal the ball away from me, they’re out to critique me, I’m in the spotlight so everybody thinks I have to score a hat trick every single time I step out onto the pitch, that doesn’t happen like that but I’ll take hat tricks in perfect moments while I’m continuously going through this journey of trying to get better and improve and help my team. So, the plan is to just keep going, I feel I’m the fittest I’ve ever been. I’ve taken great pride in taking care of my body on and off the field my entire career. My touches, how I’m playing, has been good. Just about putting the kind of pieces together but for me it’s about peaking at the right moment so we’ll see. Club level I’m not sure because as we all know, women have to have kids before things start to… whatever (laughs) yeah, I’m on a timeline to have kids so if New York FC maybe has a women’s team I’d close out my career here but we’ll see what happens.”
Lloyd’s mention of a women’s team in New York City isn’t as farfetched as it may sound. In fact according to one report, NYCFC were in discussions to buy New Jersey based NWSL club Sky Blue FC in 2014. The talks eventually stalled and NYCFC have not publicly made an effort to restate their interest. Sky Blue had already turned down an offer from the Red Bulls. Despite the outreach from both MLS clubs, at the moment it would appear New York City women’s soccer fans will have to wait a bit longer.
Lloyd also mentioned that she’d be open to a coaching opportunity in MLS if it’s ever an option. “It’d be definitely something I’d consider, I think that’s a very awesome thing that’s going on [female coaches being hired by the NFL]. It’s good to see and I think that whoever is best fit for the job should be hired so yeah, open to whatever.”
“I think that no matter what I do and no matter what I want to do, post-career I’ll do it to the best of my abilities and whatever I put my mind to I know that I can do it; whether that is broadcasting, whether that is coaching. Glenn and I were just talking about the college game, how much that’s changed. I don’t know that that’s particularly my style but Id want to stay involved in the game. I want to sort of help the next generation and continue to make the women’s game good. So within that comes loads of possibilities and I’m kind of open to everything.”
Lloyd has elevated the profile of Women’s soccer with amazing displays of skill. She’s won the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year twice, she’s won a World Cup and had jaw dropping performances at the highest levels. Perhaps Carli Lloyd might one day wear the blue of NYCFC on the field. But while a child and family are in her near-term future, long-term she has no intentions of stepping away from the game just yet and given what she’s brought to it, supporters and neutrals alike would like to keep her around as long as possible.