Simple acts, not the stuff of drama - sitting next to a teammate on a bus and in the locker room, making small talk, grabbing a meal together. If the United States wins Olympic gold in women's soccer, remember those simple acts. Remember how during last year's Women's World Cup, benched goalkeeper Hope Solo spilled some sour grapes and was ostracized by her own team, banished for the final game of the tournament and forced to fly home from China on her own. Even after the World Cup, Solo was given the cold shoulder by her teammates.
Except for the South Jersey girl.
"I really hate drama," said Carli Lloyd of Delran. "It's draining; it's mentally draining. It's a waste of time. Hope and I have gone way back. I played with her, I guess, for four years on the under-21s. I was a little bit intimidated by her at first, but we grew closer. Everybody makes mistakes in their life. I just knew she was a great person."
So Lloyd chose to remember more than some ill-chosen words.
"There were a lot of emotions involved," she said. "I think there's been some people that kind of regret how they handled the situation. Hope stayed strong through it all."
Solo is back as the national team's goalkeeper, but Lloyd's on-field role is just as important. She is the attacking midfielder, capable of spraying the ball to teammates and putting it in the back of the net. She was the MVP of last year's prestigious Algarve Cup after scoring in all four games in Portugal. This year, Lloyd likes her role under new coach Pia Sundhage.
"She kind of wants me playmaking, keeping possession," Lloyd said. "But she's also giving me the freedom to take risks."
Lloyd isn't a youngster on the national team anymore. "I'm not a veteran, per se," the 26-year-old said. But she recently noticed that she already had made more than 60 national-team appearances. That surprised her. "I'm more of a leader by example," Lloyd said. "I'm not a big talker on the field. I know I definitely have to step up."
She had a proper small-town send-off. The Lindy Hops Ice Cream parlor named a flavor for her: Carli's Cake Batter Cookie Dough Kick. The mayor of Delran gave Lloyd a key to the community and announced that some soccer fields would be named for her. More than 100 kids, and plenty of their parents, lined up for Lloyd's autograph on jerseys and soccer balls.
"It's one thing to watch me on TV. This was actual people that had to get in their cars and drive," Lloyd said later. "It was great to see. Growing up, I didn't have a role model right in front of me in my hometown. I think it's important to be that kind of a role model."
Two nights earlier, Lloyd had played against Brazil in the last pre-Olympics warm-up in San Diego. Her red-eye flight got back to the East Coast at 8 the morning after the game.
"At 11 a.m., she was at the field for a light workout, for an hour and a half," said James Galanis, Lloyd's personal soccer trainer for five years.
Lloyd remembered when she first started training with Galanis, a former professional soccer player in his native Australia.
"I wasn't fit," she said. "He turned me into a machine. It's funny looking back. Five years ago, I could never run long distances. He started out with a 15-minute run. I said, 'This is long.' I got up to an hour and a half."
That distance was intentional, Galanis said, since a soccer game is 90 minutes. When Lloyd started with Galanis, he added four minutes each day to her runs until she reached the goal. It's not as if they were starting from scratch. Lloyd was the all-time leading scorer at Rutgers and a two-time South Jersey Inquirer player of the year in high school. But, she said, "I relied a lot on my skills."
She said Galanis worked on those, too, adding a whole repertoire of passes, chips and benders, from the inside and outside of her foot. The pair worked on her aerobic and non-aerobic power, on her upper-body strength, on her mind-set.
Galanis, who runs the Universal Soccer Academy in Medford, knew he was working with a player who could make it on the national team.
"She has vision on the field," he said. "She gets the ball, she knows where everybody is."
Lloyd has paid attention to the smallest details of being a professional, listening to Galanis when he stressed the importance being hydrated, how she should always buy a case of bottled water when she got to a town and keep it in her room. "There shouldn't be a moment of the day you don't have a bottle in your hand," he told her.
Since superstars such as Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy brought the women's team into the mainstream in this country, the national team is judged by how it performs in the World Cup and the Olympics. Since women's soccer was added to the Olympics in 1996, those two tournaments are played in back-to-back years, and the United States has always won one or the other - Olympic gold in 1996, the Women's World Cup title in 1999, Olympic gold in 2004.
Last year's 4-0 semifinal loss to Brazil in the World Cup wasn't just a failure, but the worst big-tournament performance in the team's history. After that, Sundhage, a Swede, became the first foreign coach of the women's national team. Sundhage brought a more possession-oriented style and a sunnier disposition that Lloyd said has permeated the entire team from the moment the coach showed up and introduced herself by channeling Bob Dylan, singing, "The times, they are a-changin'."
A year after Germany beat Brazil to win the Women's World Cup, the United States can't be considered the Olympic favorite, especially since in that warm-up against Brazil on July 16, star forward Abby Wambach broke her leg, knocking the team's top scorer out of the Olympics. Lloyd said it will be different without Wambach's talent and strong voice on the field.
"I'm not going to get nervous about it, or start to freak out when we get to China about having to lead a lot, but just do my thing," Lloyd said. "We've gone through a lot as a team."
One bottom line: Lloyd is getting to China and the prime of her career at the same time.
"I want to win gold really bad," she said.