Carli Lloyd left the field in the 65th minute of the U.S. women’s national team’s 6-0 win against South Korea with nothing left to prove and little left to say.
The 39-year-old winner of two World Cups, two Women’s World Player of the Year awards with 316 caps and 134 goals to her name exited the match to a standing ovation as she removed her shoes and her jersey to reveal an identical USWNT shirt with “Hollins,” her married name, on the back.
“I think, obviously, this chapter is closed,” Lloyd said after the match. “It’s been emotional. It’s been so emotional just kind of leading up to all this. I’ve been emotional, but I feel like all those emotions kind of came out well before tonight, and tonight’s just going to be an opportunity to spend one last time with my teammates and really enjoy ourselves tonight.”
After watching a career highlights video play in the stadium after the match, she spent most of her speech thanking the USWNT’s unsung support and administration staff.
Lloyd joked in her postmatch speech that she’s outlasted every USWNT coach except Vlatko Andonovski, who took the job in 2019. Andonovski said the team has learned a lot about Lloyd this camp, as they have spoken about her career and looked back on her accomplishments.
“We know Carli’s a legend,” Andonovski said. “Everybody knows she’s a legend, but we almost forgot everything that she has done. I mean, it’s 17 years, you cannot remember everything. So thanks to our communication staff who created different different videos and thanks to some of the more experienced players that share some memories and some moments. We as staff learned a lot about Carli a lot more. Some of the younger players as well. We were wowed by all those stories And what a legend, I mean, such a successful career and she’s earned every bit of it.”
Andonovski said Lloyd’s substitution out of the game in the 65th minute had been predetermined to allow her and the fans to enjoy her exit from the field. She was replaced by Alex Morgan.
Lloyd’s exit underlined a “changing of the guard” in the national team setup. While many of the team’s older marquee players continue to impress, Lloyd started the match alongside many younger teammates.
Lloyd said she’s had “tunnel vision” throughout a career predicated on high work rate, an underdog mentality and a propensity for rising above expectations. But in the months since announcing her retirement, she’s become more emotional and receptive to remembering the highs of her decorated career and the impact it has had on others.
“That’s almost more rewarding than anything I’ve ever achieved,” Lloyd said of her impact on the younger generation. “Because it’s an honor to wear this crest. It’s an honor to play for your country and the culture of this team has just been embedded and ingrained in this crest since the start. I have always just wanted to live by that every single day and I hope that players just continue to ride out that culture. And yeah, it’s been amazing. I don’t really think I fully understand the impact that I’ve had, but it’s one of the greatest things that I’ve heard closing on my career.
Midfielder Andi Sullivan, a 25-year-old Washington Spirit midfielder, said after the match that her conversations with Lloyd have inspired her to have “unwavering belief in yourself.”
As the USWNT moves ahead, Andonovski, recalling conversations from USWNT camp this week, said the team’s younger group of players can take many lessons from Lloyd’s career.
“Everybody talked, and somebody said that Carli is the U.S. women’s national team,” Andonovski said. “She’s brave, she’s relentless. She’s determined, intense and just doesn’t take no as an answer, you know, just pushes through and finds a way so I think that she is a great representative of what this team is all about.”
Lloyd is not quite finished playing yet. She will join Gotham FC for two more regular season matches, and will play more if the club makes the playoffs.