Carli Lloyd interview: ‘People only saw me with raging, bulging eyes, like I wanted to hurt somebody’

Carli Lloyd, the two-time World Cup winner and double Olympic gold medallist, recently wrote an article for Women’s Health magazine. She spoke movingly of her secret journey of unexplained infertility and IVF treatment, culminating in a joyous development: she is now pregnant, and expecting her first child in October.

Post-retirement and now aged 41, Lloyd wrote that her “heart has come alive” and explained how, for the first time, she feels able to open up and allow herself to be vulnerable.

This is not Carli Lloyd, the player, that people think they know.

“People had to get used to that,” she tells The Athletic. “They had to understand me a little bit more. But the fanbase and media only saw the competitor Carli. They only saw me with raging, bulging eyes, like I wanted to hurt somebody and be the ultra, uber-competitor. And that was the way that I was going to be able to survive.

“And when I look back at my career and reflect, ‘Would I have done things differently?’, I do think I maybe would have tried to enjoy things a little bit more. But I had to have a guard up, because I had some coaches that kind of stabbed me in the back. And you’re part of a team where everybody’s competing with one another. So that guard stayed up until I announced my retirement.

“And I felt, in the last couple of months, I could finally be a bit more vulnerable. I could finally be a bit more like myself.”

Lloyd attributes her mindset as a player to the “cut-throat” environment of the United States women’s national team.

“People don’t understand how cut-throat it is,” she says. “I would say that it’s entirely unhealthy, but it’s what made our team the best and it’s what made me the best. It made me into the player and person I am today. I don’t think that (culture) needs to change. In order to be the best, you have to be in an environment that’s really hard.”

Lloyd’s record is testament to that success: 134 goals in 316 international appearances (making her the second-highest appearance-maker and third-highest scorer in USWNT history), as well as a hat-trick in the 2015 World Cup final against Japan.

When Carli Lloyd, the broadcaster of today, speaks about what it takes to be successful at the highest level, she commands an audience.

Lloyd scores the second of her three goals in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final (Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

That has certainly been the view of U.S. broadcaster Fox Sports, whose “summer of soccer” culminates on Sunday with a double bill of the finals of the European Championship (3pm ET) and Copa America (8pm ET). Fox made Lloyd the centrepiece of last summer’s Women’s World Cup coverage and over the past few weeks she has also been a studio analyst during the men’s Copa America.

Lloyd has been engaging and compelling, even if her strident opinions may at times divide opinion: during the Women’s World Cup, she provoked strong feelings when she argued the USWNT players appeared to be celebrating excessively.

But Lloyd is rated highly by broadcasters because she is prepared to give an opinion. She does not do wishy-washy. She “wasn’t surprised” by Alex Morgan’s recent omission from the USWNT Olympic roster and thinks “there needs to be a change” with the U.S. men’s national team, too — the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) is conducting a review following a disappointing Copa America in which Gregg Berhalter’s side did not progress beyond the group phase.

“(The U.S. co-hosted men’s World Cup in) 2026 is looming very quickly,” Lloyd says. “Gregg is a great person and I don’t think that there’s just one problem here. But from the outside, they do appear maybe a little bit comfortable, maybe there needs to be some ruffling of feathers and somebody to come in and give a little tough love at times. But that’s just pure speculation.

“From the standpoint of their play, things look a little rigid on the field. Something is just not clicking. With the state the team’s in now — with everybody in an uproar, the fans, sponsors, media, everybody — unfortunately, I think that there needs to be a change.

“You want to go into 2026 with the support of your nation and all those around you. So I do think that there has to be a change, and it needs to be someone that’s outside of the box, somebody international. (Jurgen) Klopp’s name has been thrown out there.”

Is the currently unattached former Liverpool manager her dream hire for the USMNT? “It would be amazing,” Lloyd says. “But there’s no time for development here. This is about 2026 and you want to put the best team out there and get the best result.”

Lloyd is also combative, hitting back on social media when some viewers felt she was wrong to add USMNT captain Christian Pulisic to a roll call of the sport’s all-time greats such as Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. She also responded last week when one X user criticised her appearance, countering: “You call a pregnant woman big… clearly you haven’t been taught anything in your life to be respectful.”

“I view that as a really sad state of affairs in the world that we live in today,” Lloyd adds. “I’m almost 42, comfortable in my own skin and confident in that regard. But it saddens me that young girls have to go through this.

“Some of the things that have come at me have been hurtful, disgusting, verbally abusive. In this realm of commenting on Copa America, people are telling me to get back into the kitchen, that I don’t belong in men’s sports. You have to have thick skin. I’ve had thick skin throughout my playing career and that has hardened me… And I pride myself on being honest and saying what I think. And that’s not always the popular choice.

“But the block button does come in handy. People come at me about blocking, but I just don’t have time for people to constantly be coming at me. You just don’t deserve to even see what’s happening on my feed.”

Lloyd won the World Cup with the USWNT in 2015 and 2019 (Naomi Baker – FIFA via Getty Images)

Would it dissuade Lloyd from appearing in the future as an analyst?

“No, it would never put me off, because the most important thing in my life is my circle of people. I don’t get my worth or my justification on how good of a job I’m doing from all of these people on social media. The majority of them are just angry that other people are successful and they’re not happy themselves.”

Lloyd will be present in the Fox studio for the Copa America final this weekend. She says she feels pride in joining others, such as sideline reporter Jenny Taft and former England international Kelly Smith, who have previously broadcast while pregnant. “Jenny said that I can use some of her wardrobe if need be,” says Lloyd. “It’s giving people the confidence to know that, just because you’re pregnant, you can still be on TV and, I’m embracing it all.

“Sure, my body has changed, pretty drastically, from the way that I was as an athlete. But I’m growing a human being inside of me, and I think it’s one of the most amazing things and just such a miracle and I’m just proudly enjoying it.”

In her open letter in Women’s Health, Lloyd explained the psychological and physical challenges she endured in her attempts to become pregnant. At one point, she said she began to question why her body was failing her. Lloyd revealed she became pregnant after three rounds of IVF. She would now like more young athletes, and more young women in general, to receive greater education on the topic and have access to wider conversations.

“It would be healthy if more people understand that a woman is born with a certain amount of eggs and, as you age, your eggs are ageing,” she says. “Maybe if there were other opportunities, if there were teams that I was on that were sponsored or linked up with a fertility clinic where you had the option and you had the support to have your eggs frozen. You can’t be working out for several weeks while you go through the process.

“It would be good if we can talk about it more, educate younger players and have those those options available. I do know that several NWSL teams (the top division of the women’s club game in the U.S.) are partnered with fertility clinics, which is great, but hopefully more jump on board.

“I was very naive and had no idea what I was walking into. And there are a lot of women in the sports world and business world that nowadays do want to put off having kids. And times have changed. And in that department, things also need to change.”

(Top photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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