When Nobody Was Watching

My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World

By Carli Lloyd, with Wayne Coffey

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 242 pp. $26

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Reviewed by

Michael D. Schaffer


nolead ends Carli Lloyd is all business.

That's the self-portrait that emerges from her blunt, no-nonsense autobiography, When Nobody Was Watching. The 34-year-old soccer star from Delran, who led the U.S. Women's Soccer team to a World Cup championship in 2015 and was named female world player of the year for her efforts, paints herself as an intense competitor with an unrelenting work ethic that keeps her in training virtually every day of the year. "I always train on Christmas Day," she writes. "For me, it's an affirmation of how committed I am, how I am ready to go even on the most special holiday of the year."

The Carli Lloyd who charges through the pages of her book is driven by fear of failure as much as by ambition. She is a self-doubting perfectionist who is her own severest critic. Hypersensitive to what she believes other people think about her, Lloyd is one of those athletes who draws motivation from a need to show others that she's way better than they think she is.

"I thrive on that Jersey edge," Lloyd writes. "I love to prove people wrong."

Even after reaching the pinnacle of her sport, Lloyd can't stop looking for that edge. "I'm not sure how I will continue to be an underdog," she writes. "But trust me, I will find a way. . . . Whatever it is, I will find someone to prove wrong and then work my ass off to do just that."

Lloyd tells her story with the help of New York Daily News sportswriter and author Wayne Coffey in a simple, straightforward narrative, told in present tense, that has almost a monotone quality. That style might have fallen flat in less capable hands, but here it effectively captures Lloyd's low-key personality. Anyone looking for glitz or glamour will have to look elsewhere. "Not much of a party girl" is how Lloyd describes herself, recounting how she celebrated her world player of the year award by having a cheeseburger, fries - and one shot of tequila.

Yet despite the absence of glitz, there's strong if understated emotion throughout Lloyd's story. She is deeply devoted to Brian Hollins, her boyfriend since high school, whom she recently married, and James Galanis, her personal trainer and mentor. She dedicates the book jointly to both men.

The insecurity of constantly having to prove herself to herself and to others breeds some dark emotions. Resentments smolder toward those in the soccer world who doubt her or seem to her to be impeding her development. Lloyd doesn't always relate well to others, including members of her immediate family. Her estrangement from her parents is a sad thread that runs through the book from beginning to end.

"My father threw me out of the house in 2008 in a fit of anger, and I have been on my own island ever since, with only sporadic contact, usually via email or phone calls," she writes. Lloyd describes her parents as "well-meaning" but smothering. "Our differences escalated over time, and as with every family rift, there was plenty of blame to spread around," she writes, conceding that she was stubborn and said things she shouldn't have. She still hopes for reconciliation. You'll close her book hoping that happens.

Michael D. Schaffer is a former Inquirer book review editor.