Carli Lloyd didn't exactly relish winning the FIFA Women's World Cup this summer. It was the U.S. star's second World Cup trophy, but Lloyd didn't appreciate the part she played in her nation's triumph in France.
"I'm not going to lie and sugarcoat it. It was absolutely the worst time of my life. It affected my relationship with my husband, with friends. It really was rock bottom of my entire career. But somehow, you see light at the end of the tunnel and I can honestly say I'm having more fun now playing than I ever have in my career. I think I just learned a lot throughout it."
"There's no denying it. I deserved to be on that field that whole World Cup, but I wasn't. And I think I've grown as a person, as a player. It sucked. It absolutely sucked."
Lloyd was the skipper for her country at the tournament, but she still made just a single start during the group stage. While she scored during wins over Thailand and Canada, Lloyd was reduced to starting on the substitutes bench for every one of her nation's games in the knockout phase despite being one of the cornerstones of the USWNT's success in previous years:
Although she came off the bench against Spain, France, England and during the final against the Netherlands, Lloyd's role was obviously diminished. Instead, the U.S. became defined by a prolific forward line underpinned by Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, with Tobin Heath and Christen Press in support.
It's hard to fault the strategy since all of them are younger and thus more likely to remain in the team's plans by the next World Cup, with Rapinoe winning the Golden Ball as the best player at the tournament. She was also awarded the Golden Boot as the competition's top goalscorer with six, while Morgan was second, which also may help to justify the selection decisions made by coach Jill Ellis.
Lloyd described herself as "super happy" for her teammates. However, she also said she intends to speak to Ellis' replacement about what level of playing time she can expect now that her old boss has stepped down.
In terms of setting targets, Lloyd already has an eye on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo: "I hope a coach comes in that values me, respects me, wants me (as) a part of the Olympic plans."
Lloyd began to play less after the USWNT were eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the 2016 games in Rio. Yet the veteran No. 10 still has the eye for a pass and the qualities as a finisher to remain a major asset at the international level, something she's been proving recently during her team's victory tour:
If the next coach does overlook Lloyd, the Sky Blue FC forward would be free to focus on other ambitions:
However, if the U.S. is going to continue dominating the women's game, Lloyd should be an integral part of the team.