QINHUANGDAO, China -- U.S. midfielder
"It was pretty upsetting," Lloyd said. "With [it] being my first Olympics, I was nervous."
It was hard for Lloyd not to think,
Lloyd has performed better in minor events -- she was the 2007 Algarve Cup MVP -- but she saved her first big game in a major tournament for Saturday, roofing a right-footed blast to score the U.S.'s lone goal in a 1-0 win here against Japan. Yet that wasn't the only reason Lloyd was the best player on the field; she also spent quality time in the grille of Japanese playmaker
"Carli is unbelievable," said U.S. goalie
It certainly helps Lloyd that she now has a coach in
Lloyd isn't a traditional No. 10 like Sawa -- the American shares too much of the passing and defensive loads with midfielder
"Obviously she's scoring goals," Sundhage said as Lloyd sat beside her. "I would put it like this: This is not only Carli Lloyd. It's Carli with Boxx. I usually mention them in pairs. In the future we could pick one or two players to be stars in the U.S. team, but right now it's about the team and pairs.
"Carli is exceptional on the ball and can play on both sides of the ball, left and right foot. She has all the tools. So in front of you I think you see a star ... in the future."
For now, though, this is a U.S. team that has no singular talents like Brazil's
And that's the concern with this U.S. bunch. It was hard enough for Sundhage to install a new playing style in just a few months on the job. But to make another huge change in the wake of
"We are aware that we don't have
"The more minutes we get together in the Olympics -- we now have 180 minutes and we get another 90 against New Zealand [on Tuesday] -- the better it is. We will improve our game from one day to another."
But will that improvement come fast enough? The loss to Norway means that the U.S. will almost certainly face Germany or a full-strength-and-clicking Brazil in the quarterfinals. And the Americans already know that scenario is a distinct possibility.
"I'm sure there's an awareness, but we just lost to Norway, so I think we're not looking past any team right now," Solo said. "I swear. We just need to get a win against New Zealand and freaking get out of our bracket and make it to the quarters."
And if it's U.S.-Brazil or U.S.-Germany? Then it'll simply be the most anticipated quarterfinal in the history of Olympic women's soccer.