Funny things happen when you travel. Sometimes you board the plane and sit on the tarmac for hours. Sometimes you see the plane you are supposed to be on taxiing away from the gate just as you land. Sometimes through sheer serendipity, you encounter Carli Lloyd in the Philadelphia International Airport.
On a sweltering Wednesday afternoon in the City of Brotherly Love, that’s just what happened. Carli, on her way back to Atlanta to continue the WPS season with the Atlanta Beat, was kind enough to speak with me for several minutes and agreed to a follow-up interview for The Rally Cap. Check out what the star of the United State’s Women’s National Team had to say:
The Rally Cap: Your favorite players are Xavi, Lionel Messi and Cesc Fàbregas; do you model your game after any of those players? Or is there another inspiration for the way you play?
Carli Lloyd: Over the years I have grown tremendously and I have started to become a true playmaker like Xavi. Linking passes, short passes, long passes, being tricky, taking shots etc.
RC: Who’s your favorite athlete, other than a soccer player?
CL: Michael Jordan because he was the ultimate champion.
RC: Since establishing yourself as a starter in 2007, what has been your most memorable moment with the USWNT?
CL: The final game in the 2008 Olympics and earning my 100th cap against Italy on November 27, 2010
RC: Not since 1999, has women’s soccer had such a buzz. What is it about this team, this group of women that captured the hearts and minds of the American public?
CL: Well to start with I think soccer had grown tremendously across the world and our dramatic game against Brazil captivated millions of people. I think that was the start of people really following us and we gave people hope and inspired young kids. We helped the nation believe in something, believe in a team and everyone was so proud of us. Our team showed heart and dedication to never give up.
RC: The US-Japan game was the most watched soccer game on ESPN in their history. Do you think the interest in the USWNT will translate into domestic success for the WPS?
CL: Wow, that is crazy! I knew we broke a lot of records but when I read that it makes me smile. We are already seeing instant results on the WPS side. Ticket sales have increased across the board. Our game today (Note: Saturday July 23 against Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and magicjack) is sold out. The game the other night had a record crowd of 15k so it’s helping.
RC: After the emotional rollercoaster that was the World Cup, how do you and the other members of the USWNT move forward?
CL: We have to move forward. It’s been hard to swallow but at the end of the day we accomplished so much. We reached the final. We have Olympic qualifying soon and have to mentally shift our focus to that.
RC: The next big event is the 2012 Olympics. What team(s) do you think will present the biggest challenge to the US defending its title? Any dark horses (teams that didn’t make the quarters of the World Cup)?
CL: First of all we have to qualify for the Olympics. When we do that every team will propose a challenge. It won’t be easy as everyone can see from the World Cup. Germany will not be in the Olympics but there are so many other strong teams. (Note: Germany did not qualify because UEFA used the 2011 Women’s World Cup as its qualifier. As a result, France and Sweden both qualified for the 12 team tournament)
RC: You’re from New Jersey, what is it about that state that produces great soccer players (Tony Meola, Michael Bradley, Claudio Reyna, Heather O’Reilly, Giuseppe Rossi, Christie Rampone)?
CL: I am not sure what it is about NJ being a power house with soccer players. I think because we are tough and we are fighters. It’s in our blood. It’s great to see.
RC: You grew up outside of Philadelphia, so being a fellow Philly-area native, I have to ask – who has the best cheesesteaks in Philly?
CL: Honestly a small place by my house has the best ones! BJ’s Deli. The Philly cheesesteaks are too much for me!
RC: Growing up, what was the best piece of advice you received, whether soccer-related or not? And do you have any words of advice for aspiring soccer players?
CL: Work hard at everything you do. Never give up. Never quit. Many people have talents but without the hard work you won’t get anywhere.