At the 2019 Women's World Cup, U.S. soccer legend Carli Lloyd has already notched two goals — and she'll be looking for more on Friday, when her team faces tournament host France in the quarterfinal match.
But Lloyd, 36, who's a two-time Olympic gold medalist and competing in her fourth World Cup, hasn't always been in the spotlight.
In fact, she thought her soccer career would be over after graduating from college. "In my head, I was going to finish my last year at Rutgers and then get a real job," Lloyd writes on The Players' Tribune, adding: "I was going to be an FBI agent. That was my plan."
She was 21 and had just been cut from the under-21 U.S. national team. "You don't work hard enough," the coach told her. "You aren't fit and I simply can't put you on the roster." That's when Lloyd was convinced that she was "totally done with soccer," she writes. "Done done."
Shortly after being cut, she connected with James Galanis, her current coach, who helped get her soccer career back on track. She put in more training hours than ever before, focusing on developing her mental toughness and physical fitness, which, at the time, "were very, very bad," Lloyd admits.
"I fought for the next five years to keep the dream alive," she continues. "I fought my way back into the U-21 team and this time to be a pivotal player, and then into the senior team, and then to cement myself into the starting 11, and then onto the 2007 World Cup and 2008 Olympic team."
In the 2008 Olympic gold medal match, Lloyd scored the game-winning goal. But there have been more setbacks since then, the veteran says: In the 2011 World Cup final, she missed a penalty kick and "felt like I let the team down," she writes. The next year, she lost her starting spot on the team right before the 2012 Olympics.
As with every setback she's faced throughout her career, Lloyd responded by training more: "Those three years between the 2012 Olympics and the 2015 World Cup, I was working as hard as I ever have in my life."
It paid off: She helped lead the U.S. to a 2015 World Cup title by netting a hat trick.
"Every single day I have been grinding away to become better," says Lloyd, adding: "A part of me loves the struggle, and a part of me hates the struggle. But all of me is all about the struggle, because without it, there would be no truly great moments."
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