USWNT hammers Paraguay as Lloyd kicks off retirement tour in record-setting style

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The first game of Carli Lloyd's farewell tour was, naturally, a record-setting one.

The quality of opponent was obviously poor, but Lloyd’s five-goal performance in a 9-0 win against Paraguay on Thursday was still sensational, and a demonstration of the quality and tenacity she has brought to the U.S. women's national team over the past 17 years.

Lloyd has confirmed that the four USWNT friendlies in September and October will be her last games with the national team, closing a career that has seen her win two gold medals, two World Cups and two FIFA Women's World Player of the Year awards.

Fans in Cleveland were clamoring for one final chance to see Lloyd in a U.S. jersey and on Thursday, the 39-year-old gave them everything they wanted and then some.

Lloyd notched two goals inside of six minutes and four by halftime. She ended with five, tying the all-time USWNT record for most goals in a game, most recently set by Alex Morgan in the team’s infamous 13-0 win over Thailand to kick off the 2019 World Cup.

Paraguay offered a similar level of resistance as the Thai side did that evening in France, but Lloyd’s goalscoring prowess was plain to see on Thursday regardless of the team in front of her.

There were headers off corner kicks, close-range poacher’s goals and one goal when she simply out-muscled a defender draped all over her and improbably poked the ball home.

Lloyd, who is renowned for her steely focus, said after the game she tried to take in the environment in the stadium far more than she normally does.

"I heard everything the crowd said tonight," Lloyd said. "I've blocked out everything in my career. It's that tunnel vision, it's that laser focus where you block out everything.

"Tonight I just savored everything, heard every chant, saw as many posters as I could, jerseys hanging. It was incredible."

Lloyd began the night on 128 career international goals and ended on 133, in the process passinng another legend, Kristine Lilly, for third on the all-time USWNT scoring charts.

Though she’s closing in on her 40th birthday, Lloyd’s importance to the U.S. cause has hardly wavered in recent years. If anything, she’s grown in stature in the two years that followed a 2019 World Cup that, while victorious on a team level, left Lloyd feeling frustrated with her individual role as a substitute. 

Lloyd now leads the U.S. in goals and assists in 2021. She started three of the team’s six Olympic matches this summer after she came off the bench in all but one game at the World Cup two years ago.

On Instagram during the game, Megan Rapinoe asked: “You sure about this retirement tho Carli Lloyd?”

After the game, USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski sounded like he was still holding out some hope that Rapinoe could be on to something.

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"I've talked to her about where she stands and how she feels and I'm pretty sure if Carli tries to play for two more years, she could easily do that," Andonovski said. "But if she decides to retire we all want to wish her the best and thank her for everything she's done for the national team, for women's soccer and for soccer in general."

But Lloyd has made it clear that she isn’t coming back, and all she can do now is enjoy the final three games of an incredible national team career.

On Thursday, she showed that she still even has another record in her before she rides off into the sunset.