The U.S. women’s national team’s itinerary for its first four post-Olympic matches is set, and, as it turns out, Carli Lloyd's last match will take place in Minnesota.
Minnesota United's Allianz Field will stage the second of two friendlies against South Korea in October, which follow a September double-header against Paraguay, U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday. All matches will take place in the Midwest, with the Paraguay matches slated for Sept. 16 and 21 in Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively. The first South Korea match will be at Sporting Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Park on Oct. 21 before the Oct. 26 final lap for Lloyd, who announced earlier this week that she will be retiring to conclude her decorated career.
The rosters for the friendlies will be made up of players from the bronze-medal-winning side, and the matches are the last for the team in the U.S. in 2021. There are various homecoming elements of the games, too. Rose Lavelle, for instance, hails from Cincinnati and will get to play in front of her hometown crowd, while coach Vlatko Andonovski returns to his home area of Kansas City, where he previously won two NWSL titles as coach of FCKC.
“These games are important to welcome back our Olympic team to play in front of our home fans, but they are also the first steps towards 2023 World Cup qualifying," Andonovski said in a statement. "We all know we have to be at the top of our game to win at the highest levels, and the dedication of the entire group to that pursuit will never change.”
Should Lloyd play in all four games, she'll conclude her U.S. career with 316 caps. Regardless, she’ll finish with the second-most in international soccer history behind Kristine Lilly’s total of 354. She could feasibly match or pass Lilly for third-most goals all-time in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd currently has 128 goals, while Lilly posted 130 in her career.
The matches vs. Paraguay, which is ranked 50th in the world according to the most recent FIFA table, will be the first at the senior level between the two sides. The U.S. and South Korea are a bit more familiar with one another, with the USWNT holding a 10-0-3 all-time edge. They last played in Jill Ellis’s final two matches as coach in October 2019, with the U.S. winning one and drawing another. It was Lloyd's goal in the 37th minute of the latter that salvaged the tie.
While this will be Lloyd’s U.S. swan song, it remains to be seen whether any other aging, veteran teammates of hers will follow suit. Megan Rapinoe told ESPN’s Spain and Fitz show this week that she's currently unsure about how she will proceed.
“Just in terms of my whole career, I don’t really know yet. I need to take some time to think about it,” she said. “They always say, ‘You’ll know when you know,’ but it’s not really like that, because you could kind of keep going, and it’s like ‘Aw yeah, you’ve accomplished so much, you'll be fine stepping away.’ But the conversation is always anguished in your mind. Or people just don’t think about it. I’ve been thinking about it a lot.”
Rapinoe, who scored two goals in the bronze-medal game vs. Australia along with Lloyd, did laud her retiring teammate for her longevity and productivity.
“She has so many appearances, so many goals. So many memorable goals as well,” Rapinoe said. “It’s all good and well to score five goals against teams that don’t really matter, but I think Aaron Heifetz, our media relations guy, said that every medal match Carli played in she scored a goal. That's greatness. She’s unbelievable. Showing up in the biggest moments, that’s what you want from your biggest players.”
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