HARRISON, N.J. — Throughout the years that Carli Lloyd has spent in the public eye, the global and local sides of her life have run alongside each other.
The global side took her to China, England, Scotland, Canada, Brazil, France, Japan, and elsewhere with the U.S. national team, not to mention countless cities across this country. In her club career, she played for and traveled with teams from Chicago, Atlanta, upstate New York, Houston, and Manchester in England, along with ones in her home state for five of her 13 professional seasons.
All along the way, the local side was with her, too. No matter where she played, she always came back to South Jersey during down time and offseasons. There she would be on fields and courts in Marlton and Delran, or visiting a Union or Eagles or Phillies game, or relaxing at home with her now-husband when she had the time.
On Sunday, the global and the local overlapped as Lloyd’s Gotham FC played its final regular-season game of the year, a 1-1 tie with Racing Louisville at Red Bull Arena. It also became the last professional game she played in New Jersey, as the Washington Spirit’s win over the Houston Dash earlier Sunday meant Gotham won’t get a home game in the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs.
Gotham finished fifth in the standings, and will kick off the postseason next Sunday at the Chicago Red Stars (3 p.m., CBS Sports Network) — coincidentally Lloyd’s first pro club, in the Women’s Professional Soccer era in 2009.
Though the result of Gotham’s game no longer mattered by halftime, the team didn’t ease off the gas pedal. The payoff came in the 53rd minute when Lloyd jumped and slammed home a textbook header off Elizabeth Eddy’s well-placed cross. The crowd of 6,362 exploded with noise.
Louisville tied the game in the 68th minute on a Cece Kizer penalty kick. Three minutes later, Lloyd was subbed off for Évelyne Viens, a rising star forward for Gotham and Canada. There was another roar, and another round of waving to the crowd for a player who so gladly returned to her home-state team three years ago in a blockbuster trade.
After the final whistle, there was one last celebration on the field. Lloyd jokingly asked to not get another Gatorade shower from her teammates, as she did a few weeks ago at Subaru Park. They obliged as this time, there were just a few splashes from water bottles after she finished speaking.
“This feels like the eighth farewell game that I’ve been playing in, but I’m truly honored, truly grateful,” Lloyd said. “I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group tan this group behind me — we’ve really pushed for a playoff spot; we’ve earned the playoff spot next weekend.”
More importantly, she asked the fans to continue to support a team that showed great improvement on and off the field this year. In addition to clinching its first playoff spot in eight years, Gotham finally got to spend a full season at Red Bull Arena, one of the nation’s elite professional soccer venues.
“Keep cheering on this group,” Lloyd told the crowd. “We’re going to do our best to win against Chicago next weekend. I’m incredibly thankful for my teammates and coaching staff here at Gotham, all of these fans, my family … Love you all, and thank you so much.”
After speaking, she posed for pictures on the field with family and friends, some of whom wore shirts bearing Gotham’s logo on the front and the number 10 and a goat drawing on the back.
In the postgame news conferences, Gotham manager Scott Parkinson got his turn to praise a star he has gotten to know since taking the helm in September.
“I’m probably the luckiest fellow in the world to have a front-seat ticket to her,” said the native of Liverpool, England, who was an assistant coach with the Red Stars for a year-and-a-half before moving east.
“She is just on another planet, both as a human [and] as an athlete, as a competitor, as a teammate, as someone to work alongside,” Parkinson continued. “I have to pinch myself every time I see her, and then slap back into, ‘Come on, you’re here to coach, you’re here to lead, wake up.’ I’m as in awe as all of you, but she makes it really easy to coach her and manage her.”
A few minutes later, it was over to Lloyd for some of her last words about playing her last professional game in her home state.
“Not a lot of athletes get to dictate when they want to leave their sport, and not a lot of athletes get to leave on top,” she said. “Not a lot of athletes get a two-plus-month farewell tour, and it’s pretty incredible. And I think what I’ve kind of seen and realized throughout these last couple of months is the amount of love and support that I’ve received from everywhere: from around the globe, from fans, from former teammates, from former opponents, former coaches, just everything.”
As fans have seen, she has said often in recent weeks that she didn’t always let herself see that bigger picture. But now that she has allowed herself to, she has seen just how much of an impact she has made on soccer at many levels.
“I think that that’s what’s touched me the most, is knowing that this game that I played for 34 years, 17 years professionally, it’s had a huge impact on so many others,” she said. “The love I feel for my teammates, I wouldn’t have wanted to end on a better team than this team right now. And I’ve always wanted to end my career in New Jersey and I’m being able to do that, and I’ve now been afforded another week, guaranteed in the playoff spot. So hopefully we can take care of business in Chicago and keep it going.”
NWSL playoffs schedule
First round: Sunday, Nov. 7
3 p.m.: 4. Chicago Red Stars vs. 5. Gotham FC (CBS Sports Network)
5:30 p.m.: 3. Washington Spirit vs. 6. North Carolina Courage (Paramount+)
Semifinals: Sunday, Nov. 14
3 p.m.: 2. OL Reign (of Tacoma, Wash.) vs. 3. Washington or 6. North Carolina (CBS Sports Network)
5:30 p.m.: 1. Portland Thorns vs. 4. Chicago or 5. Gotham (CBS Sports Network)
Final: Saturday, Nov. 20
Noon: Teams TBD at Louisville, Ky. (CBS3, Paramount+)