The USA Football Star Carli Lloyd – The Next Mia Hamm
Men’s football pursues a never-ending search for the next Pele, the next Maradona. Is there a female equivalent? Perhaps the next Mia Hamm.
That sort of comparison is common but can still be an albatross for the player beknighted the next new thing. As they prepare for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in China, US team officials are full of conjecture about the next big player to wear the red, white and blue (or new gold jerseys, as will be the case in China), and her name is Carli Lloyd (photo). No one would dare juxtapose her name with Hamm’s, but there is excitement and expectation as the team goes through its rigorous preparation for first-round games against Korea DPR, Sweden and Nigeria.
“Carli Lloyd is a unique, very good midfielder who does the things midfielders do – she can head the ball and she can pass,” comments US Coach Greg Ryan. “But she also has two unique qualities – she can just take off on the dribble and go past you in the middle of the park and she has a rocket of a shot, the ability to score goals from midfield, but also to dribble through the box and score. She gives us something the US national team has never had – a player with that range of skills.”
Lloyd, a native of Delran, New Jersey, is one of three players on the team (Heather O’Reilly and Christine Rampone are the others) from the place that calls itself “The Garden State” – she is a bona fide Jersey Girl. Lloyd, who has her own website (www.carlilloyd.com), turned 25 in July and was a fixture in the USA U-21 team for four years. And in a transformation that surprised even the US coaching staff, Lloyd took her talent and rededicated herself to playing regularly at elite level. She hired a personal trainer. She became serious. Make that “more serious”. “She has just come into her own this year,” explains Shannon Boxx, Lloyd’s midfield mate and third placed at last year’s FIFA World Players awards. “She shows a lot of confidence on the field and will do a good job at the World Cup. She is going to show a lot of people how good she is.”
Lloyd only made her senior national team debut in games against Ukraine and Mexico in 2005, the year she broke her wrist. Working her way back to fitness, Lloyd began to show impressive and creative flashes that made the coaching staff again sit up and take renewed notice. Her coming-out party was at this year’s Algarve Cup in Portugal, which the USA won for the fourth time in the past five years. “With some of the founding players retiring, it opened things up for me on the field, especially in midfield, because there wasn’t much going on for me in 2005 and 2006,” explains Lloyd, referring to the veteran cornerstones of the US team – Hamm, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain and Joy Fawcett. “Now I feel comfortable and able to bring what I can do to the field. I think I do a lot of different things. What I strive to be is the complete player, offensively and defensively. Bending and striking long-range shots and dribbling around people. I love going one-on-one. I simply want to be an all-round player.”
Perhaps Lloyd’s greatest skill, one rarely seen among even the world’s top female players, is the ability to slash through defences like a chainsaw. All in all, she is a formidable dribbler who can shoot and score from a distance and a hard and relentless tackier who puts players behind her. “We have the winning mentality of the founding players,” Lloyd said. “With our team, you either go hard or go home.”