Whether she is starting or coming off the bench, Carli Lloyd
finds a way to always be the middle of the action at the Women's World Cup.
Lloyd scored five goals in the USA's last four friendly games before the World Cup, all but one of them off the bench, but there was no changing her role on the national team, as one of the first players off the bench on the tournament's deepest team.
After the 13-0 win over Thailand, the starting frontline of Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe had a combined 183 career goals. The second string of Christen Press, Mallory Pugh and Lloyd had a combined 176 career goals. (Jessica McDonald, the USA's seventh forward, has two international goals.)
The second stringers got the start against Chile on Sunday, and Lloyd added two more goals to set a Women's World Cup record with goals in six straight games dating back to the last four games in Canada four years ago. The goals give Lloyd 113 in her career, fourth all-time for the USA behind Abby Wambach (184 goals), Mia Hamm (158) and Kristine Lilly (130), who are all retired.
The USA led, 3-0, at the half -- like it did against Thailand -- but couldn't add to its lead against Chile thanks largely to keeper Christiane Endler, who frustrated the Americans with six saves.
‘I think we would have definitely had a couple more in there if she had not come up with those big saves,’’ Lloyd said.
Lloyd missed a chance for a hat trick in the 80th minute when she missed wide on a penalty kick.
‘‘It’s haunting me right now,’’ said Lloyd, who is tied with Hamm for the USA's all-time lead for three-goal games with eight.
Where she converted or missed the penalty kick, which was awarded after Video Review, that isn't likely to influence U.S. coach Jill Ellis' view about the pecking order up front.
"I don't think she could be in a better spot [to start]," he said. "I also know she's ready to do whatever she needs to for the team."
Whether that's starting or coming on as a reserve or playing up front or in midfield, like she did against Thailand, Lloyd says she's ready.
“I know that my ability is there," she said. "I know this is my best version of me. I’ve just got to go out there and prove it. Whether that’s coming off the bench and making an impact, whether that’s starting and getting the opportunity, which I’m grateful for, I’m just trying to make the most of it. I want to win.”
Lloyd said she is having fun.
“I think that’s the biggest thing," she added. "Just going out there and showing my ability. I’m not just making any of this up. This is the best version of me that I’ve ever been playing in my career. Whether you put me up top, whether you put me in the midfield, I can do it."
Lloyd showed off her clinical finishing with a 18-yard volley to put the USA in the 11th minute. She hugged teammate Lindsey Horan, one of only four holdovers from the U.S. starting lineup against Thailand, and made four polite claps like she was at spectator at a golf tournament.
Ellis suggested Lloyd's celebration was a nod to her husband, Brian Hollins, a golf pro at a New Jersey country club.
"I'm guessing it was a shout-out to her husband," Ellis said.
Lloyd said the clap -- which she repeated after her second goal -- was intended to make fun of all the criticism of the U.S. celebrations during the 13-0 win over Thailand, and she got the idea from Horan.
"She had told me if we score," Lloyd said, "that's what we're going to do, so I just went along with it after I did my little celebration. But it was fun. I think it made a statement on the sideline there. It was cool."
Photo: Federico Pestellini/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire.