US soccer star Carli Lloyd still dreaming of Champions League glory
MANCHESTER, Uk (CNN) — United States superstar Carli Lloyd has not ruled out a return to England, after her short-term spell at Manchester City ended at the start of June.
The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year temporarily moved over from the Houston Dash as City bolstered its squad with the firm goal of winning the UEFA Women’s Champions League tournament this year.
The 34-year-old scored three times for the club in 11 games, as she helped boost City in its European campaign that was ultimately halted by French powerhouse Lyon, which eliminated the English club over two legs in the semifinals.
To play again on European soil is tempting, Lloyd admits, particularly the chance to lift the continent’s holy grail.
“I would love to win a Champions League final,” she tells CNN Sport. “I’m not closing any chapters right now, and [I’m] leaving all doors open. So, we’ll see if that dream and opportunity arises again.”
‘A better player’
Even though the US national team has led the way when it comes to women’s football, Lloyd feels she’s upped her game in England.
“I’m definitely leaving here a better player, a better person,” Lloyd says. “I’ve taken advantage of it all.”
That’s some statement, and a ringing endorsement to City when you consider she’s the reigning World Player of the Year, a double Olympic gold medalist and a World Cup winner.
Lloyd joined a City outfit that was dominant domestically, boasting the likes of England captain Steph Houghton and other international stars like Jill Scott and Toni Duggan.
Manager Nick Cushing’s squad is packed with internationals — eight from England alone — ensuring City has set the benchmark in Britain.
The Citizens are the reigning Women’s Super League champions, and were looking to make an impact in the Champions League.
The recruitment of Lloyd was certainly seen as coup, and she played a pivotal role in both the FA Cup and Champions League — even if a red card in the Women’s Super League Spring Series meant she only played four out of a possible eight games in the league.
During her time in England, the US captain has been impressed by the standards across the pond.
“Here, you’re playing with more skilful players,” she reflects. “Players who are very technical on the ball, who read the game very well.”
“So, I think for me, it’s been a good indication of where the American side is, and where the English side is … I’ve learned a good amount from Nick as well, just his style and how he coaches.”
But Lloyd did not leave the United Kingdom empty-handed.
She scored in City’s 4-1 FA Cup final victory over Birmingham as City tasted success in front of a record 35,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.
“Well, not only did I want to come over here and do whatever I could to help this team at City, but I also wanted to help grow the women’s game,” Lloyd says.
“For me, to have walked away with an FA Cup final, that was a huge memory here at City.
“I was happy I was able to be part of it. Not only did we win at Wembley but it was a great memory for me, being in 2012 London Olympics Final, which was really, really special.”
The American has also enjoyed the cultural experience of living in Manchester — even if driving on the opposite side of the road has been “very humbling” at times.
“I’ve been able to play with some of these fantastic players,” she says.”I know putting in this work now and having this experience is definitely going to help me later on, for sure.”
While Lloyd’s overall experience at City has been enjoyable, she was in close proximity to the Manchester Arena when it was attacked during an Ariana Grande concert on May 22. The blast resulted in 22 people being killed.
“I go back to 9/11 in New York City and I’ll never forget where I was that day,” Lloyd says when recalling the Manchester attack.
“I was probably about ninety miles away from [New York], training with my collegiate team, Rutgers. We looked up into the sky and saw a lot of smoke, turned on the television and you saw the World Trade Center being hit.
“It happened fairly close to me but this one, in Manchester, I was literally 0.3 miles from it, right around the corner.”
“I just was shocked. At that moment, I heard sirens, I heard helicopters, I saw lights; it was scary, scary to be that close to something.
“I feel awful for the victims, the city of Manchester, but you know — with all these things that keep happening — you see how closely-knit the city and the community are.
“To see the outreach from everybody was just tremendous.”
Lloyd will be watching from afar as Manchester heals in the aftermath of that attack, returning to play in the National Women’s Soccer League for the Houston Dash.
While her focus will be on helping Houston get its season back on track — with the team currently bottom of the standings in North America as the campaign approaches the halfway stage — she will also continue to be an agent for change off the field.
Earlier this year, Lloyd participated in a forum at the FIFA Congress in Bahrain, engaging with the likes of president Gianni Infantino as part of a think tank on global issues affecting the sport, including the advancement of women’s football around the world.
Lloyd concedes that she’s not sure if she’ll see equal pay during her life time, something the U.S. Women’s National Team have been at the forefront of fighting for, but the American captain said that the issue was more than just about income.
“It’s not just necessarily equal pay; it’s just equality; it’s just giving women fair treatment, and something they deserve,” she says.
“Our team has been fighting but it doesn’t just come down to the finances — it’s other things. It’s pitches, it’s hotels, it’s flights — so there’s loads of things that we have been fighting for, and we are happy that we got a fair deal.
“Now we just need to keep performing on the pitch.”