'It really is very different to the past' - USWNT star Lloyd loving life under Andonovski

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The 37-year-old speaks about a year so far in which both the USWNT and U.S. Soccer have both continued to make the headlines, for varying reasons

For most players, winning the World Cup is associated only with feelings of pure elation and unrivalled happiness.

When Carli Lloyd lifted football’s most prestigious trophy last year, she was doing so for the second time. However, it provoked very different emotions to the American's first taste of World Cup glory four years previously.

In 2015, Lloyd became just the first woman to score a hat-trick in the final and won a whole host of individual awards for her performances in Canada.

Given Lloyd played a bit-part role in the United States' triumph in 2019, the tournament in France was always going to pale in comparison. However, Lloyd went as far as to describe last summer as “absolutely the worst time of my life”.

A lot has changed since then, though. Head coach Jill Ellis stepped down, Vlatko Andonovski, has come in and Lloyd is now enjoying her football again.

“Vlatko has held everyone accountable, no matter who you are or how old you are,” she tells Goal, having started five of the USWNT's eight fixtures in 2020. “If you are playing well in games and in training, you will play. I love that.

“Vlatko has a unique and dynamic philosophy of how he would like the team to play. He has identified our strengths and is tweaking his philosophy to get the best out of our team. I like that he states that no two games are the same and we need to adapt to the day.

“It is also the first time that we have had a coach in all my years on the national team that takes a big interest in improving us as individuals. Vlatko has brought a rich learning environment to our team. It really is very different to the past.”

Despite the coronavirus pandemic putting soccer on hold, there have already been plenty of opportunities this year to see what the USWNT will look like under the Macedonian coach.

At the start of the year, the team cruised through Olympic qualifying without conceding a single goal across five games. The defence was then breached just once as they beat England, Spain and Japan on their way to lifting the 2020 SheBelieves Cup in March.

“Vlatko has slowly integrated his style of play since coming in and we have been able to implement it with each camp we have been together,” Lloyd says.

“In [Olympic] qualifying, you saw the team starting to come together and getting better with each game and in the She Believes Cup we continued to improve.

“We played three different opponents, England, Spain and Japan, who played three different styles and we adapted to all three.

“I think we walked away knowing we have become a lot more versatile as a unit, but also knowing that there are certain areas where we can improve.”

Carli Lloyd USA USWNT Women

For now, the chances to see that progress continue have been put on hold. The Covid-19 outbreak forced the USWNT to cancel their April friendlies with Australia and Brazil and the Olympic Games have now been pushed back to 2021.

The postponement means Lloyd will celebrate her 39th birthday before the tournament is over but there is absolutely no hint of age being a concern for her.

“I try to find the silver lining in every situation I am faced with,” she says. “A lot is out of our control right now, but our attitude toward life is in our control.

"I have never had this much time to pause my life and have nothing planned on my calendar.

“I’ve been enjoying time with my husband after being on the road my entire career. I’ve also been enjoying cooking and trying different recipes, getting some things done around our house, and, thankfully, we have a facility that I can go in and train five-to-six days a week.

“I have been building up my fitness, becoming stronger and super sharp with my touches on the ball. I now have an opportunity to continue to become the best I possibly can in this next year.”

With no football to focus on at the moment, the conversation around off-field issues within U.S. Soccer has unsurprisingly only grown.

Since the USWNT won the SheBelieves Cup in mid-March, U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro has resigned, former USWNT star Cindy Parlow Cone has replaced him, Will Wilson has been appointed as the federation’s new CEO, and, most recently, a judge dismissed the USWNT's equal pay claim from their lawsuit, which will go to court in June.

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“I have not spoken to anyone yet but I’m sure I will at some point,” Lloyd says when asked if there has been any communication with Parlow Cone or Wilson. "I know they are busy implementing their ideas and I hope to provide input when the time is right.

“As I’ve got older, I have gained more and more interest into the development methods and systems we are using to grow the game.

“I have my views and hope I can express them when the time is right.”

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