Carli Lloyd could have tried to set up a trade to Sky Blue FC at any time in the NWSL’s six-year history. So what made this the time when she requested a trade to the NWSL team that plays in her home state, and at her alma mater Rutgers?
A lot of factors, including some off the field.
“This is the first time in my career where I have actually requested to go home, to be home with my husband and live in our house,” the Delran native told the Inquirer and Daily News on Friday. “I’ve put my personal life on hold for 15 years of my career, and Brian [her husband] has always kind of come second, and he knows that, and he’s been super-supportive of that.”
On the field, a series of circumstances collided as the move came together. Houston had been looking for a new coach ever since firing Randy Waldrum, Lloyd’s only coach there, in May. Sky Blue lost its coach, Christy Holly, when he resigned in August. They hired Denise Reddy, who coached Lloyd when she played for the Women’s Professional Soccer-era Chicago Red Stars in 2009.
Houston hired Vera Pauw, a Netherlands native who used to coach South Africa’s national team. She called Lloyd to ask about the Dash, and Lloyd had to respond that she had already made her trade request to general manager Chris Canetti.
“She’s been very gracious and understanding,” Lloyd said. “Chris Canetti is a class act and [was] very gracious to hear me out and listen to me — he got it and he understood. … They obviously didn’t have to cooperate, didn’t have to make my request work.”
Pauw told the Houston Chronicle: “I know what it is like to live away from the one you love. … We could stop her from going to New Jersey because we had her rights, but in the end, there is more in life than soccer.”
It helps that the Dash’s cupboard won’t be bare. Lloyd’s move was part of a three-team trade, the biggest blockbuster in NWSL history, that sent U.S. national team star Christen Press to Houston.
“I was excited that Vera was named coach,” Lloyd said. “I’ve had a great time over the last three seasons, and I know that they’re going to go on to do great things.”
Moving to Sky Blue brings changes beyond geography and teammates. The team doesn’t have the financial resources of NWSL teams owned by MLS clubs, such as the Dash. Whereas Houston’s two teams share the professional amenities of 22,000-seat BBVA Compass Stadium, Sky Blue plays at a 5,000-seat college venue with one big metal grandstand. There are also differences in training facilities.
Lloyd accepts that, and is ready for it.
“I know that some things [at Sky Blue] aren’t up to par, some things are kind of out of their control at the moment,” she said. “But I want to continue to help the growth of women’s soccer and the NWSL, so if I can kind of help take charge in that capacity and lead off the field as well, I’m going to do that.”
The 35-year-old is also ready to accept that Sky Blue might be the last professional club she plays for. She has said she will end her national team career after the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics. Now she can see the end of her playing days overall on the horizon.
“For me to be able to go home and most likely finish my career in New Jersey, it’s something special to me,” Lloyd said. “And to be back at Rutgers, playing there, it’s kind of all coming together.”
This story has been corrected. A previous version said Lloyd was a teammate of Denise Reddy with the Red Stars in 2009. Reddy was an assistant coach, not a teammate. Lloyd also played briefly for Sky Blue in the WPS era.