At 65 minutes of Tuesday night’s U.S. national team game against South Korea, an era of American soccer came to an end.
When Carli Lloyd came into the national team, she played alongside 1999 World Cup winners like Kristine Lilly, Briana Scurry and Christine Pearce Rampone.
When she started on Tuesday in her 316th and final USWNT cap, Lloyd was joined on the field by Sophia Smith and Catarina Macario – players who weren’t even born when the USWNT memorably lifted the World Cup on home soil.
The past and the future intersected at Allianz Field in St. Paul as fans got a chance to bid farewell to a legend while also getting a taste of what’s to come.
Among the many remarkable stats Lloyd has amassed throughout her career, it is hard to ignore a more recent one showcasing her incredible longevity: she departs as the USWNT leader in goals and assists in 2021 at the age of 39.
Lloyd was not able to add to her 11 international goals this year nor her 134 career goals, however she still came close on a pair of occasions on Tuesday, and throughout the night, the crowd in St. Paul willed her on while demonstrating its appreciation for all her accomplishments.
“To just feel the love and support from so many people, I am incredibly gracious,” Lloyd said after the game. “Tonight was one of the best closings of a career I could have ever asked for. The crowd was amazing. The stadium was amazing and it was just electrifying.”
The match ended 6-0 in favor of the U.S. and featured some brilliant late goals, but there was only one in-game moment that will be remembered long past the final whistle.
With 65 minutes on the clock, Lloyd was removed from the match and replaced by her longtime teammate Alex Morgan. Lloyd removed her jersey to reveal another jersey with the No.10 – this one featuring the name “Hollins” instead of Lloyd in tribute to her husband Brian Hollins, who was in attendance.
“My husband had no idea,” Lloyd said. “He said I brought tears to his eyes.
“He’s been supporting me every step of the way. He hasn’t complained once and I couldn’t have done this journey without him. So to leave the field one last time with the Lloyd jersey on my back and then to go off as Hollins, I think that’s sort of a tribute to the next chapter. This chapter is going to be about Brian and I and I think that’s just really special.”
As Lloyd ended her career, it was hard to avoid the sense that there was a changing of the guard unfolding on the pitch. After a disappointing Olympic showing this summer, a host of new faces will undoubtedly enter the picture over the next few camps.
As the USWNT Twitter account said, the team’s lineup was “Carli & The Kids” – youngsters like Macario, Smith and Mallory Pugh joining Lloyd in attack.
“We have some unbelievable talent that’s coming through the mix,” Lloyd said. “And tonight you got to see that which I think is really exciting and at some point, the changing of the guard is going to be very soon.”
But the future can wait. On Tuesday, the focus was entirely on the present and the past, as one of the game’s all-time greats ended her singular 17-year international career.
“This was one of the most special nights I’ve ever had in my life,” Lloyd said.