IN SOCCER, the objective is to put the ball into an 8-by-24-foot goal. Yet sometimes, a goal has nothing to do with the fixtures on the end lines of the pitch. Sometimes, a goal takes patience. Just ask Carli Lloyd.

On May 11, while playing for the Western New York Flash, Lloyd waited 64 minutes before making her National Women's Soccer League debut against FC Kansas City.

Yet, getting to that point took a lot longer. Lloyd had been out of commission with a broken bone in her left shoulder since March 6. She suffered the injury in the United States national team's win over Iceland in the Algarve Cup in Portugal. She missed 2-plus months, but she is back and ready to contribute to both her professional and national teams.

"The shoulder is absolutely 100 percent," Lloyd said. "It was just a standard broken bone. I did not need surgery or anything, so I'm ready to come back and help in any way possible."

The 30 year-old from Delran, N.J., was cleared to play a little more than 2 weeks ago and headed to Rochester, N.Y., to train with the Flash. She practiced with the team on May 10, and played 25 minutes in the Flash's 2-1 win over FC Kansas City. She made an immediate impact in that game, drawing a foul deep in Kansas City territory. She also kicked a shot just wide of the net later in the match.

"I felt really good," Lloyd said. "I feel safe. My shoulder feels good, so all is well from here."

Lloyd's shoulder should not be an issue moving forward, as she said she has "no reservations" or limitations on it. She said she is ready to contribute to both the Flash, and a more patriotic team.

Lloyd said she hopes to return to the U.S. national team as soon as possible. She had appeared in all three of the team's matches prior to her injury. She has since missed five games, in which her team went 3-0-2 against China, Sweden, Germany (two games) and the Netherlands. The team has three matches left in the international season.

Last week, Lloyd was named to the United States roster that will travel to Toronto to take on the Canadian national team on Sunday. Barring another setback, she should remain on the roster for the remainder of the international season.

Even though she may not be in her usual game shape, Lloyd is too much of an asset for the national team to leave her south of the border.

She has scored 43 goal in 154 national team appearances. And, she has a knack for coming up big in moments that matter, especially in the Olympics.

In 2008, she netted the gold medal-winning goal for the U.S. against soccer superpower Brazil. Just 4 years later, she put together another stellar gold-medal game against Japan, scoring both goals for the United States in its 2-1 victory. She is the only woman in soccer history to have game-winning goals in two Olympic gold-medal games.

For more than 2 months, Lloyd's main goal was returning to the pitch.

Now, her focus returns to the other kind of goal; the one of the 8-by-24-foot variety.