At 38 years, 332 days, Carli Lloyd became the oldest player to ever score a goal for the USA when she needed all of 23 seconds to score the first goal in a 4-0 win over Jamaica Sunday night in its second game at the WNT Summer Series.
Old-age milestones are something some athletes might be sensitive about, so in anticipation of breaking the record, Lloyd was asked by longtime women's national team media officer Aaron Heifetz before the start of Summer Series if she'd be OK with a PA announcement about the record if she broke it.
Lloyd's response: "Whatever, all good."
That's about the only "whatever" you'll find about the ultra-driven Lloyd.
Lloyd is seeking her third Olympic gold medal this summer in Japan to go along with two World Cup championships, undeterred by the delay in the Olympics caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. After the pandemic hit, she sat out of the rest of the year, missing the two NWSL events in the summer and fall and two U.S. national team camps late in the year.
But she says she is better off now -- a lot better off -- than she was in 2020.
"If it was played in 2020," Lloyd said of the Olympics in a post-game media call on Sunday night, "a number of different things wouldn't have happened. My family [with whom she had been estranged from for many years] wouldn't have been a part of it. I wouldn't have had knee surgery. I changed up my strength program, started working with a guy back home. I have a new trainer that I do ball work with. So I feel like I went from thinking that I'm continuing to get better to just like a whole another level. I've never been this fit, fast, explosive."
Much of her time has been spent studying the art of playing center forward, the fifth position she has played on the national team.
"I just feel like I've been doing so much studying of different forwards," Lloyd said, "positioning runs, checking into the pocket, getting in behind the back line, different finishing, being better with my first touch, being better with back to goal, holding the ball up. There's been so many things that I've worked on and tried to finesse in the last year or so. I think I'm in a better position than I was back in 2020, so I'm just really grateful and just going to keep plugging away."
Lloyd says the role of the center forward on the national team has changed with a change on coaches.
"The way that Vlatko wants our team to play kind of just fits me," she said of Vlatko Andonovski, who replaced Jill Ellis in November 2019. "I love high pressing. I love putting the defenders and the opponents under pressure. From the time that Vlatko came on board to now, I've literally just been a sponge trying to continuously get better and evolve my game. And so I feel like at the beginning of the year, that's what I was focused on. I was in the classroom learning every day, I was figuring out my positioning runs, and now having played in league for the last seven weeks, it's just playing and putting it all together. And I really feel like it is all coming together."
Lloyd earned her 303rd cap against Jamaica in a career that began in 2005. At the beginning of her career, she says she envisioned playing three cycles -- World Cups and Olympics in 2007-2008, 2011-12 and 2015-16 -- but changed her outlook after the 2012 Olympic gold-medal game, where she scored both goals in the 2-1 win over Japan.
"From that point on, I knew that I wanted to go four cycles," she said. "There were some bumps in the road, things didn't always go as smooth [she wasn't a regular starter on the 2019 World Cup team], which is life and that's all part of my journey. But this fourth phase for me was something that I really wanted to push for. I wouldn't have been able to do it had I not lived a consistent lifestyle on and off the field. I literally haven't switched off for 17, 18 years. It's been hardcore craziness."
Lloyd acknowledged that she can't play forever, though.
"I'm sure my husband and friends and family are going to be excited when I'm done playing because I'll actually get to do things," she said, "but it's been all worth it to me. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I don't have any regrets. But I have literally done everything possible to continue to play to this point. And I'm feeling so good. I wish I had maybe five years left in the tank, but it's going to come to a point where it's not a physical thing with me. It's just going to be a life decision to want to kind of start the next chapter, whenever that comes."