Carli Lloyd’s 100th career national team goal, scored Sunday in a win over Mexico, came at an opportune time. The milestone occurred on the field where she spent three years with the National Women’s Soccer League’s Houston Dash, and also a week before her home debut with her new club, New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC.
Sky Blue will play its home opener Sunday against the Seattle Reign. Kickoff at Rutgers’ Yurcak Field, Sky Blue’s home venue, will be at 5 p.m. Tickets are still available at skybluefc.com, or by phone at 888-SBFC-TIX. The game will be streamed live on go90.com.
Lloyd has been impressed so far by what she’s seen with Sky Blue, as new coach Denise Reddy puts her imprint on the club. The two women have known each other for nearly a decade.
“She is diligent about making sure that everybody has bought in … and that nobody is treated any differently, whether you have 300 caps for the national team or you’re not even a national team player,” Lloyd said. “I’m thoroughly impressed, and I know I’m going to continue to get better as a player in this environment.”
Lloyd is teammates with one of the NWSL’s top rookies, midfielder Savannah McCaskill. The No. 2 draft pick got her first national team call-up while still in college at South Carolina, and has made four appearances this year.
“She’s got a great work ethic. She’s hungry. She’s come in motivated. … The sky’s the limit,” Lloyd said. “She can play in a few different positions, and I’m excited to see how this season pans out.”
Across the field will be Megan Rapinoe, who is in terrific form. Since the start of last summer, she has five goals and 10 assists for the national team. In the U.S.’ two-game series against Mexico — a 6-2 win Sunday and a 4-1 win last Thursday — Rapinoe totaled five assists and a goal. She also had a goal and an assist in the Reign’s season opener.
Lloyd described Rapinoe as “a player who could make any sort of magic happen on the field — the type of player that can change a game instantly [and] has the finesse to do it.”
Behind them, Lindsey Horan has become a midfield general. Crystal Dunn has added grit to her attacking skill as a makeshift left back, and has done it so well that she might keep the job.
Four more big names missed the Mexico series because of injury: central midfielders Julie Ertz and Samantha Mewis, creative winger Tobin Heath and young playmaker Rose Lavelle. Forward Christen Press was also absent amid a change of club.
“We have the depth. We have the talent. We have the mix of veterans and younger players,” Lloyd said. “We have it all. It just has to come together at the right moment, and that’s what great teams do.”
It is also a puzzle that coach Jill Ellis must solve as she judges candidates for next year’s World Cup squad.
“There’s still a lot of time from now until the World Cup, so there are things that could change,” Lloyd said. “Do I think that they’re going to change drastically? Probably not. But I still think that we can become an even more dangerous team in the attacking final third.”
Lloyd must also work to keep her place in the lineup. No starting spot is guaranteed, even for superstars.
“It pushes everybody, and for me personally, it’s no different,” Lloyd said. “I’m still competing against myself, and still competing to be better than I was yesterday, and I know that I can do it. I know that age isn’t a factor, and I know that at the end of the day, when the big event comes, I will be impacting the field. That’s my goal.”