Published 3: 27 PM EST Jan 17, 2020
Carli Lloyd is getting a new start with the new U.S. women’s coaching staff.
Lloyd, who made no secret of her unhappiness at being a backup during last summer’s World Cup, appears likely to regain her old starting role, at least for the Olympic qualifying tournament. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said Lloyd was the first on the field and last off of it during training camp, calling her “a true example of what a pro competing for a national team spot needs to look like.”
“Carli did very well, and I was very happy with her performance,” Andonovski said during a conference call Friday. “I just wish that she continues performing like that in the next camp, leading to the first qualifying game. If she does that, I see no reason for her not to be a starter.”
The Olympic qualifying tournament begins Jan. 28 in Houston. The U.S. women will have to reach the Feb. 9 final to earn one of CONCACAF’s two spots at the Tokyo Olympics.
Andonovski selected a veteran-heavy roster for Olympic qualifying, with Andi Sullivan and Lynn Williams the only two players who weren’t part of the squad that won the World Cup in France. Because the Olympic roster is smaller – 20 players, as opposed to 23 for the World Cup – some of the World Cup champions were left off, with midfielders Morgan Brian and Allie Long and forward Mallory Pugh not making the cut.
Tierna Davidson, who is still recovering from an ankle injury and won’t be ready to play a full game until mid-February, also was left off.
At 37, Lloyd is the oldest member of the U.S. squad. But the two-time FIFA World player of the year is in the best shape of her career, and her three goals in France were a reminder that she is still a potent attacker. She lost her starting spot largely because of a numbers game, finding herself playing behind Alex Morgan after she was shifted from midfield to forward when the U.S. switched to a 4-3-3 formation in 2017.
Though Lloyd played in all seven games in France, she only started once. She said repeatedly that she thought she should still be starting, and said after the World Cup that she wasn’t sure if she wanted to keep playing internationally if it meant the same role. But coach Jill Ellis resigned after the World Cup, and Andonovski has made it clear he’s keeping an open mind about the entire player pool.
“Every player that was in the January camp had an opportunity to be a starter or still has an opportunity to be a starter,” he said. “Not at any point or time there was a set team or a set player that was a starter or non-starter.”
It helps Lloyd’s cause that Morgan is not available for Olympic qualifying. She’s expecting her first child in April, but is working out – she has posted videos of herself training – and has said she hopes to play in Tokyo.
The Olympic tournament begins July 22.
“She’s an incredible player. We would love to have Alex at her best back on the team,” Andonovski said. “At this point, we don’t have to talk much about (the Olympics) because we want to first wish Alex the best in her pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby. Once the time comes, we’re going to focus a little bit more on it and see what the timing looks like for Alex and the team.”