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Carli Lloyd, What Are You Even Talking About?

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 26: Carli Lloyd #10 of United States warms up before the start of the game against Korea Republic at Allianz Field on October 26, 2021 in St Paul, Minnesota. United States defeated Korea Republic 6-0. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
David Berding/Getty Images

The United States women’s national team just played and won their first tournament since the retirement of legendary midfielder Carli Lloyd, who has the second-most caps and third-most goals in team history. The team is in the midst of a transition between generations, as the veteran-heavy squad that made a disappointing third-place run at the Tokyo Olympics is finally starting to get rotated out for a group of exciting younger players like Catarina Macario, Trinity Rodman, and Mallory Pugh. This has given players of Lloyd’s generation some time to reflect and share their wisdom—or, in Lloyd’s case, to embark on a media tour opining about the alleged brokenness of the USWNT culture in maddeningly unspecific terms.

Here she is on the debut episode of Hope Solo’s podcast talking around some problem with the team’s culture. On the same day of the podcast, Lloyd dropped a jpeg from picturequotes.com about culture. She definitely seems to be trying to make a point of some kind. But what that point is actually intended to be is anyone’s guess.

The only real edge to grab onto there is Solo’s reference to the “political game, the social game” within the team, which even then calls to mind little more than the whispery alliances and snuffed torches of Survivor. A day later, Lloyd joined Alexi Lalas’s podcast and got a bit more specific. “Winning a World Cup obviously put us on a really big, big stage and endorsements started coming and the spotlight started coming and I just saw a shift in people’s mindsets. It became more about what can I do to build my brand off the field? What can I do to get an endorsement deal and less about what we have to do when we step in between those lines?”

This is not only a hypocritical line for the Nike, Volkswagen, NJM Insurance Group, CBDMEDIC, Agile Therapeutics, Tonal, FlexIt Fitness, and Symbodi spokeswoman to take, it’s also not supported by the results. The USWNT has lost exactly two games since that World Cup victory. Though the bronze medal in Tokyo was well below expectations, it wasn’t a program-shaking disaster, as evidenced by the new-look team’s good showings of late. And anyway, if there was a flaw to that Olympic team, it was a misplaced faith in players of Lloyd’s generation.

When Lalas asked Lloyd what made the USWNT culture so toxic, she singled out a lack of “unity.” This was ironic coming from Lloyd, since she herself is the author of two of the most memorable moments of team disunity in recent times. First there was that triumphant 2019 World Cup, the lead-up to which Lloyd admitted was “absolutely the worst time of my life” because the then-37-year-old hadn’t gotten as much playing time as she wanted. Then there was the time just before the third-place game in Tokyo, when Lloyd was the only USWNT player not to take a knee in protest of racial discrimination.

Since her recent public airing of grievances, everyone has gotten mad at Lloyd for talking shit about her teammates. Lloyd addressed the pushback in an Instagram video, which was once again light on specifics. A team culture breaks down, per Lloyd, when “things and other things become bigger than performing or the will to win.” Those things and also those other things are, I guess, endorsement deals and an interest in the outside world?

I will note here that the bad times singled out by Lloyd pretty much directly coincided with the USWNT’s activist turn, though she didn’t say anything about this specifically, other than a few references to people caring more about “what teammates stood for” rather than the game on the field. Again, the USWNT looked bad in Tokyo, though results under Vlatko Andonovski have been fantastic since then, so the distraction argument doesn’t seem to hold any weight.

In light of all that, it sounds like the so-called issues with the USWNT have been more of a Carli problem than a culture problem. But in deference to this legit national team hero, we’ll give her, and jesseneo.com, the last word:

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