Two weeks after the United States women's soccer team lost a heartbreaker to Japan in the World Cup final last July, midfielder Carli Lloyd was making her way to Leslie C. Quick Jr. Stadium at Widener University in Chester.
Her Atlanta Beat team was facing the Independence in a Women's Professional Soccer game, and Lloyd was one of the national team members being honored in a pregame ceremony. Because of a league rule regarding yellow-card accumulations over consecutive games, Lloyd had to watch the game from the press box, and as she and a few friends maneuvered through the enthusiastic and sold-out crowd, nobody stopped to talk to her.
Later the same day, a waiter ran to get a soccer ball from the trunk of his car, gushing to the Rutgers alum what her autograph would mean to his daughter.
Those highs and lows are what it means to be Carli Lloyd.
One minute you are re-creating the dramatic goal from the World Cup semifinal game against Brazil on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. The next you are training at the Blue Barn Recreation Center in Marlton next to a group of laughing children blowing off steam.
Though Lloyd's face may not be plastered all over the television, her play has had a huge impact on the national team, which qualified for the London Olympics at the end of January.
"Carli always finds a way to do what is right for the team," James Galanis, Lloyd's longtime trainer, friend, and coach said. "She can't always be flashy. Sometimes she has to put the brakes on and just be a good link on the team."
Lloyd, 29, has appeared in 124 games for the national team since her arrival in 2005, good enough for 21st all-time. By the end of the year, the midfielder from Delran could move into the top 15 in appearances. Her 34 goals are 13th all-time - only 10 goals out of the top 10. Lloyd has 23 assists with the squad, which also rank 13th.
Last month, Lloyd scored six goals in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Vancouver, three of which came against Mexico for her first hat trick with the national team. In the six-game tourney, the Americans outscored their opponents, 38-0.
"Some people probably weren't happy with the fact that we scored that many goals, but they were quality goals," Lloyd said. "We can't take our foot off the pedal; we just have to keep going. We went in there wanting to make a statement to people, and I think we did."
The national team will face New Zealand at 4 p.m. Saturday at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
The Olympic qualifying experience was drastically different from qualifying for the 2011 World Cup, when the United States had to defeat Italy in a tense home-and-home series.
The recent success is partly the result of a new formation. Instead of the usual 4-4-2, coach Pia Sundhage's squad has been playing a 4-2-3-1, which Lloyd sees as a great fit for the team's "versatile front six" and herself in particular, and with a focus on possession and combination passing.
The U.S. team will be defending its gold-medal performances in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. Lloyd scored the game-winner in overtime of the 2008 championship game.
"Everyone was writing us off, everyone said the U.S. was finished, and no one thought we would make it to the final. We knew that and we were fired up," said Lloyd, recalling the 2008 game.
But before the focus can turn to the Olympics and the exhibition games that precede the Games, many still are dwelling on the recent WPS announcement that the league will suspend its 2012 season. Lloyd, who got the news while going through customs on the way back from Canada, was looking forward to having Galanis as her head coach again, especially with all of the Beat's offseason acquisitions.
"I was really sad about it. I was looking forward to going down to Atlanta. I thought we were going to have a really good team," Lloyd said. "I was going to be playing for James again, which is always great. More importantly, I felt really bad for the kids and the future of women's soccer."
Without the WPS, Lloyd will be back at the Blue Barn training with Galanis, who runs the Universal Soccer Academy.
"The foundation for all of this is her drive. She's just fully dedicated," Galanis said. "She doesn't switch off."