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Why Carli Lloyd Is the USWNT’s Most Unexpected All-Time Great

JESSE LOUIE/JUST WOMEN’S SPORTS

Carli Lloyd is well known as a player who elevates her game in the big moments. She has a reserve of magic that only comes out when the stakes are the highest, and is the only player in the world who can boast of scoring two Olympic-winning goals in her career, to go along with an iconic hat trick in the 2015 World Cup final. Her numerous accolades, including two-time FIFA Player of the Year, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and two-time World Cup Champion, easily qualify her for the short list of greatest USWNT players ever.

But in contrast to other household names like Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Mia Hamm, Lloyd has constantly been at war for her minutes on the field, her starting role status often ephemeral and uncertain, irregardless of her resume.

Two years into her tenure on the U21 national team, Coach Chris Petrucelli sat Lloyd down and told her he was cutting her from the roster. Fortunately for Lloyd, a teammate’s injury led to her being reinstated a short time later, but the sting from that moment wasn’t as easily remedied.

“I left that meeting absolutely hating him, blaming him, blaming others,” Lloyd admits to her longtime USWNT teammate Kelley O’Hara on the JWS podcast. Her initial response, externalizing the cause of her failure, was typical of a young adult still finding her place in the world. But soon after the incident, Lloyd began working with a new private coach, James Galanis, and a switch was flipped.

“I had to learn how to train, how to become a pro,” she tells O’Hara, “I had to learn that this needs to be a 24 hour, seven-day-a-week job.”

With this new, total commitment to fitness and training, Lloyd dedicated herself to working harder than she’d ever worked before. And after eventually making the senior national team in 2005, she was never cut from the roster again.

Battling for minutes and a starting spot became her next challenge. In 2007, during her first FIFA Women’s World Cup in China, she started all three group-stage games, but then unexpectedly played only limited minutes for the rest of the tournament.

When a coaching change brought Pia Sundhage to the helm of the squad, Lloyd enjoyed a phase of consistency in her starting role on the team, which culminated in the 2008 Olympics, when Lloyd scored the tournament-winning goal in extra time against Brazil to give the U.S. a 1-0 victory and the gold medal.

Even through their 2011 World Cup finals loss to Japan, Lloyd’s starting spot was secure. But leading up to the 2012 London Olympics, things suddenly got shaky. In an Olympic send-off match in Philly, with much of her New Jersey circle in attendance, Lloyd played a poor first half, got pulled at the break and lost her starting spot.

Across the pond, in their first match of the games, a teammate’s injury once again played into Lloyd’s favor and returned her to the field. Rising to the occasion once again, she scored the go-ahead goal in that opening match versus France and later scored both goals in the U.S.’s 2-1 victory over Japan in the gold medal game.

“The minute I got on that field at 16 minutes [vs. France],” she tells O’Hara, “My mindset for that whole tournament was to never give the coaches any ammunition to take me off that field.”

Unless you were living on Mars or were too young, chances are you still remember Lloyd’s iconic performance at the 2015 World Cup. Her hat trick against Japan was equally unbelievable and intoxicating, a pinnacle of athletic excellence which culminated in her stunning third goal from the midfield line.

After winning FIFA Player of the Year, the highest individual honor in soccer, in both 2015 and 2016, making a fourth World Cup team in 2019 at age 36 would have been icing on the cake for just about any other player. After an injury derailed her in 2017, it would have been easy for Lloyd to accept a role as a veteran super sub, especially given her age and injuries, not to mention the ridiculously talented newcomers. Abby Wambach adopted just such a role for her farewell run in 2015. But Lloyd had no intention of the 2019 World Cup being a farewell run. And after coming off the bench for reduced minutes throughout the tournament, while helping the U.S. win its fourth World Cup title, she spoke blatantly about how unhappy she had been throughout the experience.

“When I returned from my injury in 2017, I felt like I had seen the writing on the wall,” she explains to O’Hara, “I was going to be pegged as old and washed up and not good enough. And it just didn’t seem like I ever really had a fair shot at earning a starting spot.”

Unsurprisingly, Lloyd is still not ready to relinquish the reins, and is unabashedly pursuing a starting spot for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. And with new head coach Vlatko Andonovski running the show, she knows anything is possible, including a fresh start at age 38.

“With this team you’ve got to prepare for anything and everything,” Lloyd tells a knowing O’Hara, “You don’t know what’s going to happen. At any moment something can change.”

Whether Lloyd makes the list of the greatest USWNT players ever is really only a matter of how short the list is. But one thing stands out on her application to the club: Lloyd has garnered an incomparable amount of glory on a surprisingly minimal amount of sure footing.

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JESSE LOUIE/JUST WOMEN’S SPORTS

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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