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Carli Lloyd Exclusive: USWNT Star on World Cup, Attacking Issues, Future Plans

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterJune 26, 2015

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Four games into the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, the United States still hasn't played its best attacking soccer. But with only three more wins needed for a record third title, there's no time like the present to set things right.

Perhaps no one knows all of this better than midfielder Carli Lloyd, a three-time World Cup veteran, two-time Olympic gold medalist and one of the team's most important players. In a telephone interview with Bleacher Report, Lloyd showed no intentions of shying away from the current U.S. team's attacking issues.

"To be honest, I don't think we're playing our best football right now," Lloyd said. "But we've got a lot of talent and depth on this team and we're capable of a lot more—and we all know that."

The world knows that as well. The U.S. is one of only two nations—Germany is the other—to have won the Women's World Cup twice. The Americans nearly won a third title four years ago but lost the final to Japan in a penalty shootout. A year later, Lloyd and the U.S. took home the gold medal at the London Olympics.

WINNIPEG, MB - JUNE 12:  Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States with the ball against Lina Nilsson #16 of Sweden in the first half in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 match at Winnipeg Stadium on June 12, 2015 in Winnipeg, Canada.  (Photo by Kevin C.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A hallmark of all the most successful U.S. teams has been strong attacking play, but despite maintaining an unbeaten record so far at this World Cup and winning the "group of death," the U.S. has not quite clicked offensively.

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Following a hard-fought 3-1 win over Australia in the opener, the American offense labored fruitlessly in a scoreless draw against Sweden. In the final group game, against Nigeria, the quality of attacking play improved, but the U.S. could only muster a 1-0 victory.

Carli Lloyd (10) contests a 50-50 ball during the Colombia match.
Carli Lloyd (10) contests a 50-50 ball during the Colombia match.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

That set up a meeting with Colombia in the round of 16. The U.S. won that game 2-0, but both goals came after Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez was sent off early in the second half. Before that, the U.S. attack once again appeared disjointed, lacking the kind of incisive passing and intelligent movement needed to break down disciplined opponents.

For Lloyd, fixing the problem could be as simple as working out the right formula.

"It's just finding our rhythm and wanting to put a good brand [of soccer] out there," she said. "The effort is there. The desire is there. The will is there. All of that is there.

"Obviously, our defense has been strong, along with [goalkeeper] Hope [Solo]. But on the offensive side of things, we're still trying to find our rhythm and fine-tune that."

WINNIPEG, MB - JUNE 08:  Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States of America against Katrina Gorry #19 of Australia during the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Group D match between the United States and Australia at Winnipeg Stadium on June 8, 2015 in Winn
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The U.S. will play China in the quarterfinals, a match that will dredge up plenty of history. The two teams faced off in the 1999 World Cup final in Pasadena, California, with the U.S. winning on penalty kicks following a scoreless draw.

According to Lloyd, the Americans can expect another solid defensive effort from China, as well as excellent ball movement and technical skill. If the U.S. advances, a daunting semifinal against top-ranked Germany or No. 3 France awaits.

Based on current form, the Americans would have trouble matching either team in the attacking third. But Lloyd pointed out that the team can take comfort from its history of pulling out results against the toughest teams.

In the quarterfinals four years ago, for example, the U.S. trailed Brazil by a goal late in extra time. But Abby Wambach scored a header from a Megan Rapinoe cross in the 122nd minute to send the match to penalties, and the U.S. won.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 27:  Carli Lloyd answers questions during the United States Women's World Cup Media Day at Marriott Marquis Hotel on May 27, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

"I think that anything is possible," Lloyd said. "We haven't played our best football, but at the end of the day, we're still finding a way to win and we're scoring more goals than the opponent.

"What's great about the history of this team is that sometimes it's not always pretty, sometimes it's great, but in the end, we always find a way to come out on top. We will be ready for the China game, and after the China game, with hopefully a win, we will see what happens next."

The U.S. will have to play the China game without the suspended Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, both key members of the midfield. Rapinoe has scored twice in Canada thus far and played a role in nearly every goal the team has produced. Holiday, meanwhile, has partnered Lloyd in central midfield, and the absence of both will leave two gaping holes in the side.

Lloyd pointed to Christen Press, Heather O'Reilly and Tobin Heath as potential options to replace Rapinoe on the wing and hinted that Morgan Brian, a teammate of hers with the Houston Dash, could slot into the middle.

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 10:  Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States looks for an opening against Ireland in the first half of their international friendly match on May 10, 2015 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California.  The U.S. won 3-0.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Ge
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

"We're comfortable playing with one another," Lloyd said. "We've played together in Houston; I've played with her since she's been in and around the team."

With two more wins, the U.S. would advance to a second straight World Cup final, where it could face a rematch against Japan. Canada, the host nation, remains alive on that side of the bracket along with Australia and England.

Ben Curtis/Associated Press

No matter what happens, Lloyd said it's important to appreciate the magnitude of playing in the World Cup. Unlike Wambach, who has announced this will be her last World Cup, Lloyd said she has no immediate plans to retire from the international game.

She said she hopes to play in the 2016 Olympics as the U.S. attempts to win a fourth straight gold medal. First, though, is the business of improving the American attack and reaching another World Cup final.

"That's our goal, to make it to the final and win," Lloyd said. "But it's hard sometimes. You don't want to get too wrapped up in that final destination. You want to enjoy the journey, enjoy the process and just take it one step at a time.

"I think for me personally, that's the focus. I want to start getting on the ball more, impacting the game, taking some shots, just doing what I do best and go out there and help the team any way I can."

Follow @MiguelCominguez

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