The following is excerpted from WHEN NOBODY WAS WATCHING: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World by Carli Lloyd with Wayne Coffey. Copyright © 2016 by Carlilloyd.com LLC. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
I don’t do fake. That’s the first thing you should know about me. I’m not one to put on airs or change my demeanor depending on where I am or who I am talking to. I don’t much care about the red carpet or being on the covers of magazines. I don’t put on makeup when I’m getting ready for a game, because why would I? I am gearing up for battle. How is mascara or eyeliner going to help me win?
If I’m not happy you can see it on my face from the other end of the Jersey Turnpike, and at the moment I am not happy. At all. I am 21 and I have just been cut from the U.S. U-21 team by a coach who told me straight out that I wasn’t national team material. My dream is to play for the U.S., and if I can’t even make the JV, what’s the point? So I am seriously considering finishing up my time with my team at Rutgers, getting my degree and calling it a career. I always thought it would be cool to be an FBI agent. Maybe I can do that. I am as adrift as a piece of flotsam in the Atlantic.
And that’s when my father, Steve, my first coach and my biggest supporter in the early years of my career, suggests I reach out to a highly regarded trainer in our area, an Australian named James Galanis.
“Maybe. I will think about it,” I say.
I do think about it. I just don’t call. I wait a week, then another . . .and a third. Finally, I dial this James Galanis’s number. He suggests I come down to his field so he can have a look at me. We settle on a date, a Thursday night in December, and I pull up to a deserted, dimly lit pitch in Lumberton, N.J.
James is waiting. “Let’s start with some skill work and see where you are,” he says. I think this is a colossal waste of time. But I try to be a good soldier. “Sure.”
For the next hour I audition. I juggle. I dribble in and out of poles. I demonstrate my first touch, passing, volleying, my technique on the ball with every part of both feet.
When Nobody Was Watching
by Carli Lloyd
Carli Lloyd details her journey to World Cup champion and FIFA Player of the Year, one filled with obstacles on and off the field.
In between, James asks questions. “Why do you think you were cut? What sort of teammate are you? Do you connect with people and support others? Do you like to go on the attack? What are your strengths? Do you get back on defense?”
Almost every answer I give is full of excuses or finger-pointing. The amount of ownership I take is negligible. I don’t mind the questions, because it gives me time to rest. About 20 minutes into a one-hour session, I am gassed.
James says he wants to meet again on Saturday to do a fitness evaluation.
“This wasn’t fitness?” I ask.
“No, this was just a skill evaluation. "
There’s something I like straight away about James. He is very clear and direct. I like the questions. I like that he doesn’t baby me.
On Saturday afternoon I report to the track at Lenape High in Medford, N.J. James wants me to do the Cooper Fitness Test, running at a steady pace as far as I can go over 12 minutes. After that I do interval work—400 meters, 200 meters, 100 meters. I go hard and do my best but, honestly, it’s not very good and I know it. As I rest, James asks more questions.
Finally, after I knock out as many sit-ups and pushups as possible in two minutes, he asks me to sit down on the red bleachers. “O.K., Carli, this is the story as I see it,” he says. “Can you make the U.S. Women’s National Team? Yes, you can. It is going to take a whole lot of work. But if you put in that work, then I don’t see any reason why you can’t go as far as you want.”
Then he provides the most detailed evaluation of me I’ve ever gotten. “You are very strong [technically and tactically]. But you are not fit. Mentally, you are weak. You don’t push yourself hard and you are lazy. You aren’t the sort of player who is going to thrive under pressure. And your character? That is poor. You make excuses and find people to blame. You always have a reason things are not working out, instead of focusing on what you can do to make them work out.”
This coach, a man who barely knows me, has just shredded me, and somehow I am fine with it. I don’t argue or push back on anything. It’s almost as if I’ve been waiting for someone like this my whole life.
He continues. “If you keep working at 80%, you won’t get anywhere. You need to stop with the excuses. You need to start treating every training session, every game, as if it were a World Cup final. You need to be the hardest-working person out there every time. You can’t just sit behind the strikers, feed them through balls and be a one-way player. You need to play box-to-box, defend and do the dirty work.
“Soccer needs to be No. 1 in your life—not your boyfriend or your social life or anything else. Soccer. If it’s not, let’s go home right now. If I call you at 10 p.m. on a Saturday and say, ‘Meet me at the field in a half-hour,’ you turn to your friends and say, ‘Sorry, everybody, I have to go train.’ You have to be ready and willing to train on Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving—that’s the commitment it’s going to take. If you are willing to make these sacrifices, I will work with you. I will do everything I can to help you reach your goals. It is up to you.”
My head is spinning, but in a good way. “When do we start?”
U.S. Soccer in 2016: USMNT and USWNT year in photos
Klinsmann fired, replaced by Arena
Jurgen Klinsmann was fired after the USA's World Cup qualifying loss in Costa Rica, bringing an end to more than five years in charge. He was replaced by Bruce Arena, who returns to the bench after coaching the USA from 1998-2006.
USMNT vs. Costa Rica, November 15
The dejected faces on Bobby Wood, left, and John Brooks say it all, as the U.S. drops to 0-2-0 in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying Hexagonal following a 4-0 loss and embarrassment at Costa Rica.
USWNT vs. Romania, November 13
Morgan Brian gets a congratulatory hug after her converted penalty kick, which helped the U.S. women close out 2016 with a 5-0 rout of Romania at StubHub Center in Carson, California.
USMNT vs. Mexico, November 11
Mexico players celebrate Rafa Marquez's late winner, which delivered a 2-1 triumph for El Tri over the USA to open the CONCACAF Hexagonal. It ended years of U.S. domination over Mexico in Columbus.
USWNT vs. Romania, November 10
Crystal Dunn congratulates Christen Press on one of her three goals as the USA handled Romania with ease, winning 8-1 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California.
USWNT vs. Switzerland, October 23
Carli Lloyd gets a hearty welcome after scoring on a long-range blast to kick-start the U.S. in a 5-1 rout of Switzerland in Minneapolis.
USWNT vs. Switzerland, October 19
A new-look U.S. women's team routed Switzerland 4-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, with Samantha Mewis (3) at the center of the celebrations after scoring the final goal of four-goal second half.
USMNT vs. New Zealand, October 11
Julian Green is congratulated by captain Michael Bradley after scoring the opener, but the U.S. was forced to settle for a 1-1 draw vs. New Zealand in the last game before the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying Hexagonal kicks off.
USMNT vs. Cuba, October 7
Chris Wondolowski scored a goal and assisted on another, as the USA continued World Cup qualifying preparations by beating Cuba 2-0 in a historic friendly in Havana.
USWNT vs. Netherlands, September 18
Carli Lloyd celebrates her goal that kicks off the scoring for the USA in a 3-1 win over the Netherlands at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
USWNT vs. Thailand, September 15
U.S. women's national team co-captain Carli Lloyd happily signs autographs after scoring a hat trick in a 9-0 romp over Thailand in Columbus, Ohio.
USWNT vs. Thailand, September 15
Megan Rapinoe kneels for the national anthem ahead of the U.S. women's national team's match vs. Thailand, continuing her public protest in line with that of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
USMNT vs. Trinidad & Tobago, September 6
Fabian Johnson, Christian Pulisic and Sacha Kljestan celebrate during a 4-0 win, which cemented the USA's place atop its World Cup qualifying group and a berth in the CONCACAF hexagonal.
Hope Solo's USWNT contract terminated
Following the USWNT's Olympic loss to Sweden, Hope Solo lashed out at the opposition, calling them "cowards" and drawing the ire of U.S. Soccer. The incident pushed the federation over the edge, and it terminated the goalkeeper's contract while suspending her six months–meaning any chance at reinstatement won't be possible until February.
USWNT vs. Sweden, August 12
The long and stunned faces say it all, as the U.S. women try to comprehend a penalty-kick loss to Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinals. The 4-3 PK defeat after a 1-1 draw marked the earliest ouster for the U.S. women in a major competition ever.
USWNT vs. Colombia, August 9
Hope Solo lets a Catalina Usme free kick slip through her hands and legs in a shocking 2-2 draw. The USA still won its Olympic group despite the slip-up.
USWNT vs. France, August 6
Carli Lloyd scores the only goal in a 1-0 win over a stout France side to punch the USA's ticket to the knockout stage at the Olympics.
USWNT vs. New Zealand, August 3
Carli Lloyd celebrates her goal in the USA's 2-0 win over New Zealand in their opening match of group play at the Olympics. Alex Morgan doubled the USA's lead in the second half.
USWNT vs. Costa Rica, July 22
Christen Press and Carli Lloyd celebrate an easy 4-0 win, which sent the U.S. on its way to Rio with an unbeaten record in 2016.
USWNT vs. South Africa, July 9
Hope Solo salutes the crowd after posting the 100th clean sheet of her career in a 1-0 win in Chicago. Crystal Dunn scored the lone goal.
USMNT vs. Colombia, June 25
For a second time at Copa America, the USA falls to Colombia, with Carlos Bacca's goal the difference in a 1-0 result in the third-place match in Arizona.
USMNT vs. Argentina, June 21
Lionel Messi converts an incredible free kick to punctuate a dominant performance for Argentina against the USA in the Copa America semifinals.
USMNT vs. Ecuador, June 16
Goal scorers Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes share a celebratory hug with Matt Besler in the Copa America quarterfinals, where the Americans held on for a 2-1 win and a place in the semis.
USMNT vs. Paraguay, June 11
Clint Dempsey celebrates his goal in a 1-0 win over Paraguay, which secured the USA's place in the Copa America knockout stage.
USMNT vs. Costa Rica, June 7
Bobby Wood caps a dominating first half for the USA in a must-win game vs. Costa Rica in Chicago at Copa America. Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Graham Zusi also scored.
USWNT vs. Japan, June 5
Co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn defends as the U.S. bounces back to shut out Japan 2-0 in a rain-shortened friendly in Cleveland.
USMNT vs. Colombia, June 3
James Rodriguez beats Brad Guzan from the penalty spot in Colombia's 2-0 win over the USA to open Copa America Centenario.
USWNT vs. Japan, June 2
Lindsey Horan heads the USA in front to cap a comeback from two goals down, but the Americans conceded in extra time to 10-woman Japan, settling for a 3-3 draw.
USMNT vs. Bolivia, May 29
Christian Pulisic scores his first international goal in the USA's 4-0 win over Bolivia in a final tune-up for Copa America. Gyasi Zardes scored twice, and John Brooks added one of his own in the triumph.
USMNT vs. Ecuador, May 25
Darlington Nagbe is hugged by Christian Pulisic after his 90th-minute volley delivers a 1-0 victory for the USA in a pre-Copa America friendly.
USMNT vs. Puerto Rico, May 22
Tim Ream scores the opening goal in the USA's 3-0 win over Puerto Rico in the first meeting between the two sides. Bobby Wood and Paul Arriola scored as well.
USWNT vs. Colombia, April 10
Julie Johnston, left, is mobbed after one of her two goals in a 3-0 USA win at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania.
USWNT vs. Colombia, April 6
Allie Long, left scores twice, and five other players score as well in a 7-0 rout of Colombia in East Hartford, Connecticut.
USMNT vs. Guatemala, March 29
Christian Pulisic, 17, makes his U.S. debut in a World Cup qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, becoming cap-tied to the USA. He was otherwise eligible for Croatia.
USMNT vs. Guatemala, March 29
Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore celebrate during a thorough 4-0 World Cup qualifying win, putting the USA's campaign back on track after the setback in Guatemala.
USMNT vs. Guatemala, March 25
There was no way through for DeAndre Yedlin and the USA during a 2-0 loss in Guatemala in what was a stunning setback in the Americans' World Cup qualifying campaign.
USWNT vs. Germany, March 9
The USWNT celebrates the inaugural SheBelieves Cup title after beating European powers England, France and Germany in succession.
USWNT vs. Germany, March 9
The U.S. celebrates Alex Morgan's equalizer vs. Germany in the SheBelieves Cup in Boca Raton, Florida. Samantha Mewis's winner a few minutes later cemented the Americans' overall triumph in the competition.
USWNT vs. France, March 6
Alex Morgan scores the game-winner in a 1-0 victory over France in the second game of the SheBelieves Cup in Nashville, Tennessee.
USWNT vs. England, March 3
Crystal Dunn is mobbed after her game-winning goal kicks off the SheBelieves Cup in a 1-0 triumph in Tampa Bay, Florida.
USWNT vs. Canada, February 21
Lindsey Horan celebrates her goal that helps the USA to a 2-0 win over Canada and a first-place finish in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying.
USWNT vs. Trinidad and Tobago, February 19
Alex Morgan celebrates one of her three goals that helped the U.S. clinch a berth in the 2016 Olympics after a 5-0 triumph in Houston.
USWNT vs. Puerto Rico, February 15
Crystal Dunn scores one of her five goals, tying a single-game U.S. record in a 10-0 rout to close group play in Olympic qualifying.
USWNT vs. Mexico, February 13
The U.S. needed a penalty kick from Carli Lloyd to beat Mexico 1-0 in the second match of CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament.
USWNT vs. Costa Rica, February 10
Alex Morgan scores the fastest goal in U.S. history, netting 12 seconds into the USWNT's Olympic qualifying campaign and sending the Americans on their way to a 5-0 win.
USMNT vs. Canada, February 5
Jozy Altidore heads in the winner to secure a 1-0 win over Canada at StubHub Center to cap the annual winter training camp.
USMNT vs. Iceland, January 31
Steve Birnbaum heads in a late winner in a 3-2 victory over Iceland in the opening match of the year.
USWNT vs. Ireland, January 23
17-year-old Mallory Pugh scores on her debut, helping cap a 5-0 win for the USA to open the year. Carli Lloyd led the way with a hat trick, and Alex Morgan scored as well in San Diego.
The decision to take my father’s advice and meet with James turns my whole career around. I don’t quit soccer. I go into James’s Universal Soccer Academy laboratory, work harder than I ever have and make the senior national team at 23. I line up some potential endorsement deals and I am, quite suddenly, a full-fledged professional soccer player.
The only issue now: My parents are having a difficult time letting go. They have always been there for me; I won’t ever forget that. But now I’m an adult and I need to make my own decisions—and they’re having a hard time with that. They want to choose an agent for me. They are constantly on me about how I should interact with my teammates and my coaches. I know they mean well, but I feel increasingly stressed. More and more, they seem angry and resentful, as though I have closed them out of my soccer career.
In turn, I’m angry and resentful that they won’t let me be a grownup. I understand that for years our family revolved around my travels and tournaments, that my brother and sister got short shrift as a result. But I never wanted anybody to have to sacrifice because of my love of soccer.
It’s a painful predicament for me. I love my parents for their devotion. That doesn’t mean they have lifetime rights to tell me what to do. I keep trying to make this point, but it never seems to get through. This is my journey. If I fall, I have to pick myself up. If I’m not getting the playing time I want, it’s up to me to figure out why. Having something go wrong doesn’t call for a family discussion; it means I have to get better, get back to the place that will take me where I want to go—back on the training field with James.
This is all compounded by my father’s frequent critiques of my game. He was the coach who launched me on my way—of course he wants me to do well. But sometimes it’s too much.
A week after my 24th birthday, we play a friendly against Ireland in San Diego. I fly my parents out and put them up in a hotel so they can watch. Shannon Boxx, a stalwart holding mid, is out with an injury. So is midfielder Kristine Lilly. I know I’m going to have to shoulder much more of the defensive responsibilities.
We come out flying, peppering the Irish goal with shots. In the 20th minute I slip a pass down the left wing to Christie Welsh, who crosses to a charging Heather O’Reilly, who knocks it in. Cat Whitehill pounds in a rebound and we’re up 2–0 at the half, on our way to a 5–0 victory.
I meet my parents briefly after the game.
“You didn’t look like yourself,” my father says. “You’ve gone away from the creative, attacking game you’ve always played.”
“Dad, I’m playing the way the coach wants me to play,” I reply. “He wants me to be a ball-winner and be as active on defense as I am on offense.”
Neither of us is happy.
A year later, the drama goes all the way to China and the 2007 World Cup, and now it’s not just my family. We start off horribly, with a draw against North Korea, but still advance out of our group after beating Sweden 2–0 and grinding out a 1–0 victory over Nigeria. I start each game, but in the last one I get subbed off, and our coach, Greg Ryan, seems to sense my frustration over not connecting our passes or playing possession soccer. He asks if we can talk.
“I just want to check in and see how you’re doing,” he says. “I know I’ve been tough on you the last two and a half years, and I am so proud of how far you’ve come along. You are going to be the future of this team.” One second later, he informs me I will not start our first elimination game, against England.
Greg and I have had our ups and downs. There are times he seems like my biggest supporter, and other times he acts as if I don’t even belong on the team. This makes it official: I will never understand this man.
Before the England game we hold a players-only meeting and it becomes very clear how deep the frustration goes. Abby Wambach, our star striker, says we’re focusing too much on defense; we need to be more aggressive offensively. Just about everybody speaks up and the unrest is as thick as the Chinese smog. I play only 10 minutes, and I can’t say I understand why. But the mayhem is just beginning.
We advance to the semifinals against Brazil, a rising power with a collection of dazzlingly skilled women who play like jazz musicians in cleats, riffing and improvising. It is the most anticipated match of the World Cup and becomes even more so when Ryan shockingly replaces Hope Solo with Briana Scurry in goal. Hope is fuming, crushed—and it gets even worse when she learns that Kristine, one of U.S. soccer’s all-time greats, lobbied for the change, along with Abby.
We end up losing 4–0, the worst World Cup defeat in U.S. history, and I’m still trying to figure out how things unraveled so fast when I hear Hope has ripped Greg and Bri in a post-match interview. Outrage sweeps through our team and Hope is an instant pariah, isolated at our team meal and barred from our third-place game against Norway. She isn’t even allowed to fly home with the team.
Hope is summoned to a meeting with the veterans and they let her have it for breaking ranks and criticizing a revered teammate. Hope apologizes but it is not enough. They want her to pay for her breach, and then pay some more. I think this full-bore freeze-out is taking things too far. In men’s sports, people criticize coaches and managers all the time, call out teammates too, and it’s not that huge of a deal. Often the guy speaking out is even lauded for having the courage to tell the truth. When it happens in women’s sports, though, it always seems to be viewed as a nasty, claws-out cat fight. I hate that our World Cup has devolved into this, but I’m not going to be part of the Hate Hope Campaign.
James and I talk it through and he agrees. “Hope didn’t kill anybody,” he says. So I refuse to go along. I sit next to Hope. I talk to Hope. I completely disagree with this calculated crusade to crush her, and I’m not backing off that position.
This does not please the anti-Hope cabal at all. My parents are very upset that I back Hope and they blame James for giving me bad advice. “Be careful about who you align yourself with,” somebody says. “It may come back to hurt you.”
“I don’t care,” I reply. “I am going to stand up for what I think is right.”
A year later, in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, things have never been better on the field. I’ve started all 14 games under new coach Pia Sundhage. But the drama back home in Delran, N.J., doesn’t let up.
For years my father has regarded James as all but a soccer messiah, but as I become more independent and start to make my own decisions, he begins to shift his viewpoint. My parents believe James is coming between us and they hold him responsible for my becoming an outcast in the mess that came out of World Cup 2007. As much love and gratitude as I have for my parents, I also believe all this unrest is not doing me any good. Every day I’m home it feels as if I’m tiptoeing through a minefield. I never know when someone will go off. I’m doing better than I ever have with the national team, but the discord at home weighs on me constantly. I make it a point not to spend too much time there. When I’m on breaks, I stay with friends or with my boyfriend, Brian Hollins, and that becomes a point of contention too.
“I don’t understand why you hardly ever have dinner with us and don’t spend more time with your family,” my mother says.
The fact is: Even though I love my family, home is about the last place I want to be now. I return to Jersey for a few weeks before I begin final preparations for my first Olympic Games. One night when I am out, I call home and my father answers. He starts right in on me. I don’t want to hear it.
“You never want to hear it,” he says. “Why don’t you get your stuff out of the house or I will throw it out the window?” I can’t believe it has reached this point. But true to stubborn form, I don’t back down.
“If that’s how you want it, fine,” I say.
I call Brian and tell him what happened. “I’m going to get my stuff. Can you help me?”
Brian is shocked, but he is there for me. He’s always there.
I drive over to the house, pull up in front and take a breath. I look at the side yard—my original home field. Being nostalgic is not my natural inclination, but it’s inevitable given the circumstances.
I walk in the house and head straight upstairs. This is the saddest day of my life. I begin packing up all my belongings. My mother and sister come into my room and we all start crying. I am overwhelmed. I can’t even believe this is happening.
When I’m finally finished it is almost midnight. I head to Brian’s mom’s house, weeping as I drive. It feels so final, so crushing. I’ve lived my whole life in that house. And now my own family doesn’t want me anymore. Brian comforts me as only he can. I am exhausted and utterly drained. It takes a long time to fall asleep.
Days after I move out, I fly to South Korea with my teammates. In the end, we go all the way to the gold-medal game—and, fittingly enough, it’s against Brazil. I score the winning goal six minutes into overtime, with a left-footed strike inside the far post. It is the greatest moment of my soccer life to that point, an affirmation of all the work I’ve put in with James. We all get gold medals and stand atop the podium listening to the national anthem and there is nothing in the world that could be better.
I return home to Delran and there’s a parade and a big party. Nobody, of course, lets on that I’ve been tossed out of my own house. Energy is something that comes in finite supply, and James told me a long time ago that you can’t afford to waste any of it on drama. So I smile and wave and show people my gold medal, and then I go back to work. James and I have a saying: You have to empty the tank every time you’re on the field. The moment you think you have arrived, you are in trouble.
In London, in 2012, we win another Olympic gold, and I score twice in the final game to lock it up. It’s a wonderful moment, to be sure, but my focus soon turns completely to the ’15 World Cup, a title the U.S. has not won since 1999. It is time to bring the trophy back to the U.S.—not because it is our birthright, but because we are the best team.
We struggle early in Canada, myself as much as anyone. We advance out of our group, but I am shaken to the core, deflated that I haven’t had more of an impact. James tells me to lighten up. “Nobody will remember what happened in the group stage,” he says. “Now is your time.”
When I take the field for the final, against Japan, all I’m thinking of is emptying the tank, being the hardest-working player. I am not thinking of goals, but in the third minute we have a corner kick and the play is designed for me to run onto a ground ball. It works perfectly and I flick it hard into the corner. I score again a few minutes later, and then, not long after, I control the ball at midfield and see the Japanese keeper off her line. I decide to let it fly. The goal is one of the greatest thrills I’ve ever had on a soccer field. We go on to a 5–2 victory and I am the only woman in World Cup history to have a hat trick in the final.
Six months later I am honored as the World Player of the Year at a gala in Zürich, Switzerland. I share the night with Brian and James, the man who saved my career. I do not share it with my parents.
When my father had open-heart surgery, nobody told me until well afterward. When my sister got married, I was not invited. I love my family and would like nothing more than to reconcile with them. Nobody has done more for me than my parents, who devoted untold amounts of time and money that allowed me to play the game I love. It’s no exaggeration to say I never would have gotten anywhere near a World Cup, an Olympics or even the U.S. national team without them. I have never forgotten that, and I never will.
I have missed sharing all these things with them, but I hope that will one day change.