Carli Lloyd's career guided by coach James Galanis
Carli Lloyd's path to coach James Galanis started with a humble plea from her dad: ''My daughter needs you.''
It was 2003 and Lloyd was having what could best be described as a career crisis. A talented midfielder who had excelled since she was 5, she'd been cut from the under-21 U.S. national team. She decided to play out her senior year at Rutgers and then move on from soccer.
Then she met Galanis. In the 13 years since, he's been her coach, mentor and even psychologist as she's risen to the top of the game.
So after Lloyd scored her hat trick to lead the United States to victory last summer in the Women's World Cup final, she thanked Galanis. When she was named FIFA World Player of the Year in January, she thanked Galanis.
''It's his demeanor and his knowledge, and the way he says things. It was just this kind of instant respect that I had for him. He said to me: `This has to become the No. 1 thing in your life,' and I was willing to do it,'' Lloyd said. ''And from that point on, from the minute we started together, everything that he's asked of me, I would do it every single day and I'm still doing it today.''
Galanis is brutally honest about what he found when he first started working with Lloyd: a gifted player who had been coddled by coaches and who wasn't willing to put in the work to be great.
''She was just cruising by on her talent,'' he said. ''She was so much better than everyone else, but I knew that someday she was going to meet up with the rest of the Carli Lloyds, and because of her inconsistency and her lack of fitness she was in for rejection at some point.''
Galanis was a player himself back home in Australia. He came to the United States in 1997 and saw potential in training high-level soccer players for professional careers. In 2000, he founded the Universal Soccer Academy in Lumberton, New Jersey.
''James told my dad, `Look, I'm going to train your daughter for free. I'm going to get her on the national team. And all I ask in return is that she be as dedicated as she can be,''' Lloyd said. ''That was it.''
Galanis employs what he calls the Five Pillars: physical power, mental toughness, character, technical skills and tactical awareness.
Both Lloyd and Galanis acknowledge the mental piece was one of the biggest obstacles, but she dutifully attacked the tasks he gave her.
''She sees that I'm there for her. She sees that I'm always working to make her better,'' Galanis said. ''And I see that she's fully dedicated and she's all in 110 percent with this. We both respect each other and support each other. So, yes, we know it's special. And we knew it was special right from the beginning.''
Lloyd's success wasn't magic; it was both a process and hard work, Galanis said. There were also setbacks: Lloyd was benched before the 2012 London Games by then-coach Pia Sundhage, who liked the combination of Shannon Boxx and Lauren Holiday in the central midfielder position. The demotion didn't last long, however, because Boxx was injured in the opener.
Lloyd started the rest of the way and scored both goals in the gold-medal match against Japan at Wembley Stadium. She's the only player to score winning goals in consecutive Olympic finals: At the Beijing Games in 2008, she scored in overtime for a 1-0 victory against Brazil.
Her biggest moment came on the game's biggest stage. She scored three goals in the first 16 minutes last summer in the World Cup final against Japan in Vancouver. Vice President Joe Biden was among the U.S. fans in attendance.
One person who wasn't there was Galanis, who was vacationing with his family in Greece. Lloyd's family stays home during big tournaments so she can focus, and likewise Galanis doesn't attend all of them, instead encouraging her from afar with texts and emails. Lloyd called him afterward and he asked what she was doing.
''Winning World Cups,'' he recalled her saying nonchalantly.
Galanis has worked with other national team players, including goalkeeper Hope Solo and former defender Heather Mitts. More recently he has worked with Yoreli Rincon, a promising 22-year-old midfielder who plays for the Colombia national team.
But none has been a full-time job, except Lloyd.
After a pair of exhibition matches this month, Lloyd and the rest of the U.S. national team heads team to Brazil for the Olympics, opening with a game against New Zealand on Aug. 3.
The United States has the last three gold medals in the sport. No team has won a World Cup then the Olympics in consecutive years.
After the Rio Games, Lloyd will marry her high school sweetheart, Brian Hollins. And her book, ''When Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World,'' which details her relationship with Galanis, is set for release at the end of September.
''She loves it when something big is sitting there waiting to be taken - she wants it to be hers,'' Galanis said. ''Other people fold under pressure. Carli thrives under pressure.''