There was a lot of good stuff from my conversation with Lloyd couldn't fit into the print edition. Here's the extended cut.
We talked about the dramatic change in the U.S. women's national team since last summer's World Cup and previewed each of the Americans' group stage opponents at the Olympics. Lloyd also reflected on how her life has changed now that she's a superstar who transcends the soccer field.
On the U.S. women's team's infusion of new young talent:
They bring something unique. They're great footballers - they're good on the ball, they're smart. They've been involved in the youth program with the national team. So they're great in a sense that it's good having good people around you that are good on the ball.
The only thing that's going to be a challenge, maybe, for them is not knowing what to expect. It's a big tournament. There are some distractions that come along with the Olympics, but I think our team does a pretty good job of rallying around each other and helping one another out in order to be fully ready.
I think it's a good mix of veteran players - myself, Hope [Solo] and others who have been involved in an Olympics have to kind of set the tone and really encourage these players out on the field.
On the fast rise to prominence of 18-year-old midfielder Mallory Pugh:
She's an interesting player. I've really gotten to know her and really respect her play and who she is on and off the field. She's come in and done really well ever since Olympic qualifying.
What's crazy about what she's done is she doesn't seem to get rattled about anything. Nothing really stresses her out. She shows up to training every day, she works on getting better, she's open to feedback. It's great to have a player like that.
It's a very nerve-wracking environment to be in. It's stressful. I deal with it on a daily basis even with over 200 caps. It's crazy to me to look at her and think to myself that I don't know if much rattles this player. It's pretty crazy. But it's something unique, and she's definitely going to help us out on the pitch - and she has this year. She's just got to keep going. She's got a lot of talent.
On the inclusion of Megan Rapinoe in the Olympic squad even though she hasn't fully recovered from the ACL tear in her right kne she suffered in December:
Pinoe's just very positive and wasn't stressing out. Of course she was very disappointed when she heard the news about tearing her ACL, but she just kept saying: "I'm going to work extra hard to get myself back in time." She just didn't seem really stressed out and believed she would make it back in time.
And she's a special player - there's no player that's like her. Of course, Jill [Ellis] said she's not coming back to be a 90-minute player. But she has the opportunity to potentially come in and change the game. Whether she comes in and we get a couple of corner kicks and she's doing her magic on that, there are so many different things that she can offer, which I think is great.
On Tobin Heath's improvement since the World Cup, and how that has dovetailed with the overall improvement in the team's playing style:
Tobin, I think has definitely been one of our top, consistent players over these last couple of years. She's done really, really well and I think she's just booming with confidence the more she plays.
I've seen Tobin mature so much. I remember years ago, in prior events, we had to get on her about her defending and just being kind of diligent about that. She's a workhorse. She gets up and down that flank, she helps out. It's great to see.
I think that like myself, the style of play has evolved. When I first got on the team with Greg Ryan, it was basically just long balls the whole time. There was no use of the center mids. Then when Pia [Sundhage] came on board, we started to use the center mids more, and started to play better soccer.
I think with [Heath], it's sort of the same thing. We used to just kind of get the ball out wide and whip it in for a cross, and Abby [Wambach] was there to meet it. Now we're becoming more sophisticated. We're combining on the flanks, we're getting [to the] end line, all different things. I think it has helped evolve [Heath's] game tremendously, and she's going to be an important piece to winning this gold medal.
On the team's evolution from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1, and whether the team knew when the big switch happened for the World Cup semifinal against Germany that it had the potential to be a defining moment:
Not really. I was just focused on myself and what I needed to do, focused on winning a World Cup. It's hard to look to the future and start to focus on that.
But I knew the moment that Jill gave me the freedom to do what I needed to do on the field [before the quarterfinal against China], James [Galanis] told me: "Make sure she doesn't regret this move. If you go out there and you don't do well, she's going to in a heartbeat think about changing it again." So that was my focus.
I know that I'm a natural attacking player. I love to attack, I love to play freely, I love to combine and play through balls. That's the nature of my game. So for me, I wanted to make sure that I showed Jill and everybody that I wasn't going to let them down, and I was going to help in any way possible and come through.
Now here we are, and Jill still fancies me in that number 10 role. If needed I can play the number 8 [in central midfield], no problem. If needed I can even play the number 6 [a more defensive role]. It's good to be able to perform in any role that is possible.
On the recent experiment of Christen Press at the number 10 and its effect on how she plays and what it does to the rest of the midfield:
Honestly, that's my natural position, really. You can look at it one of two ways. It's basically a box-to-box midfielder, which I've been doing for 10-some years on the team. I can do it. I think that I may be needed and may be called upon to do it depending on how things are going.
There's two days of rest in between [each game]. I know Jill has mentioned that to me. I'm totally open with it and I think the only thing is when you play with essentially two [midfielders] behind me and me as the attacking mid, obviously there's a little bit less defensive responsibility and I'm higher up in the attack.
I think it's just going to be a game-to-game basis to see how things are going. I'll be in the 8, I'll be in the 10, whatever is called upon I'll be ready to do it. It's definitely going to be one of those things where we have to see what's going on and how players are playing and what's needed of me.
On playing New Zealand in the group stage opener:
They're tough, they're gritty, they work extremely hard, they're physical, and it's going to be a battle. I think every game that we're playing in our group stage is going to be a battle. We just have to continue to focus on us, and obviously not peak too early. We want to peak come the later stages. But it's going to be a tough match.
On whether France has improved its mental fortitude, long considered a key weakness that has held back the team from winning despite having players with nearly-unequaled individual skill:
Yeah, I think so. Look, I mean, if you don't have it upstairs in the mind, your chances of making it very far are very slim. Everybody in the group stages is fresh, is ready to go. But once those later-stage games come, there's a lot riding on it. You have to be mentally tough, and nothing can stand in your way.
I think that we as a team need to come out with that approach. Because there's not too many other teams that have that. But, you know, France is a great team, and just because we beat them four years ago in the 2012 Olympics [group stage, 4-2] - they're a totally different team. So we've got to look it that way.
On Colombia and the importance of star Yoreli Rincón's absence due to a fractured fibula suffered in early July:
Well, I thought they had a really great World Cup. Obviously, when we played them just recently in the U.S. in April [winning 7-0 and 3-0], they were a different squad, facing some pay issues and everything. It probably took a lot out of them.
But I'm sure they're going to be fired up and ready to go, because they want to continue to fight, and in order to continue to fight and get paid, you have to do well. So I would imagine that they're going to be going out there and playing really hard, as they usually do.
It's a big disappointment without Yoreli. I spoke to her the day that [the injury] happened, and she's just devastated and can't believe it. But it's one of those things where it happened and she's just got to bounce back even stronger from it.
On going to Manaus:
I've actually heard that it's not your typical jungle that everybody thinks it is. It's a nice little town, and obviously the stadium is a little bit out there, but I've heard it's great and it's fine. It should be a great venue to play in.
On what it means for women's soccer to have games at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro's legendary Maracanã stadium:
It's going to be amazing. We've sort of been spoiled, playing in some of these magnificent venues - the 2011 World Cup in Germany, the 2012 London Olympics. It's just been awesome. Then to play in these stadiums [that hosted] the men's World Cup [in 2014], now it's just amazing. And it's just creating memories for all of us, knowing that we've played in some big-time stadiums.
On becoming a star and a celebrity after wanting for so long to simply be the world's greatest female soccer player:
Yeah, it's been awesome. I think because I still have the approach of wanting to get better, and still remaining humble - I know how hard I've had to work to get to this point. I know that it hasn't been an easy journey for me. I know that I want to continue to work hard for the rest of my career, and I have a lot of other things that I want to accomplish.
But with all of that, it has been awesome. Everywhere I go, people recognize me. Big-time people are reaching out to me. Just the perks of everything - getting into free [events] here and there, getting hooked up with concert tickets or dinners. It's awesome. But I never will take it for granted, because I know how hard I've had to work and I think that's why I like to remain classy and humble about it.
On what it is about the national team that helps players so easily handle stardom, and on players' increasing willingness to speak out about gender equity and other social issues:
I think it's just the culture and demeanor of this team. There's a respect factor that goes on in the culture of the women's national team. It's just been there for years, and the way that everyone has handled interviews and incidents, and just everything has been classy. I think that it's just how it is.
Men are very different than women, and tend to speak their minds and say whatever they want. Women are judged a little bit differently when they do that. I know Hope has been very outspoken on our team, but in all fairness, I think that without that, I'm not sure that we would have made so many strides.
If you're quiet and you don't speak out, you're never going to get anything accomplished. I think that has helped our team make some strides, and made more and more people feel comfortable about speaking up...
The position that I'm in right now, if I speak up about these things [such as equal pay matters], I highly doubt that they would kick me off the team. So it's just a matter of being in a position now to know that I'm in a comfortable situation to speak out, and as a veteran and co-captain of this team, it's important for me to kind of help pay the way and help make others feel comfortable to speak out about these things.