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Carli Lloyd Somehow Finds Invalid Criticism For Team That Did Everything Wrong

2-time FIFA World Cup Winner and investor in NJ/NY Gotham FC emcees the World Cup Send Off for the players going to represent their countries in the 2023 FIFA World Cup after the National Women's Soccer League Match between the Chicago Red Stars and NJ/NY Gotham FC at Red Bull Arena on June 25, 2023 in Harrison, New Jersey.
Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

Minutes after the United States and Portugal mercifully stopped playing soccer, allowing a weary nation to sleep instead of watching the Americans nervously fall over or aimlessly kick the ball out of bounds, the recriminations began. The USWNT had advanced to the round of 16, yes, but they were lucky to escape the match after Portugal outplayed them for 98 minutes and banged the best chance of the game off the post in the 91st minute. When you are defending two straight World Cup titles, tumbling backwards into a date with the team that just spanked you 3-0 at the most recent Olympics is cause for a certain amount of alarm.

The Fox Soccer panel went in on the team's performance and organization immediately after the game ended, and in one sense, they are the right types of people to have comment on such a performance, as Alexi Lalas and Carli Lloyd are both deeply committed partisans who want to see the team win another World Cup. Both analysts bashed Vlatko Andonovski's squad for their nervous, dull performance, with Lalas noting that while "there have to be massive changes" on and off the field, the USWNT is still a dangerous team capable of winning the whole tournament. That's both fairly measured and formulated in response to the 270 minutes of actual soccer played on the field.

On the other hand, Lloyd, a world-class crank, managed an impressive feat of needle-threading, when she sat down to analyze a game where almost everything went wrong and picked one of the few available angles of criticism that was bizarrely unwarranted. She was apoplectic upon seeing the team celebrating with fans after the game. She fumed, "I have never witnessed something like that."

Lloyd continued, and finally got to what she really wanted to say, which was that the USWNT no longer cares to do the hard work it takes to win because they care about (unspecified) off-field pursuits. Given what we know about Lloyd's acutely unpleasant vibe, history of criticizing her teammates for having any political stances, and repeated identification of something breaking in the team's culture in 2020 (not coincidentally, right around when she retired) it's hard not to read Lloyd's polemic about various "off-the-field things that are happening" as a thinly veiled rant about wokeness run amok. It's not quite as blunt as Lloyd saying, Back in my day, CRT only stood for cut, run, and tackle, but this is not really a point about soccer, this is a point about players and the federation caring more about appearances than winning.

Vlatko Andonovski held his press conference after Lloyd criticized his team, and he defended his group. "They've put everything they could in preparation for this tournament and every game that they go into, so to question the mentality of this team, to question the willingness to win, to compete, I think it's insane," he said. Obviously he is closer to the team than a permanently aggrieved former player, though even Andonovski's admission that his team didn't play up to their standard falls short of accurately describing the rotten performance. The team was incapable of any remotely harmonious passages of play, so either the chemistry is off or the coaching is. Alex Morgan can talk all she wants about the team merely missing good chances, but 99 percent of the game is the process of creating those chances and keeping the other team from doing so, and the USWNT was not up to the task.

The silver lining here is that this scrap is taking place after the U.S. advanced, so even without Rose Lavelle, they can redeem their shaky group stage performance with a win against Sweden. If there is anyone to be encouraged by, it's not the defiant manager nor the cranky former player who ether doesn't know what she's talking about or won't say what she means, it's veteran Kelley O'Hara, last seen on the pitch leading a big team meeting and lighting the team up for their shaky performance. This seems to me like the attitude of someone who knows how close her team got to oblivion, and what a hard path they have in front of them.

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