Carli Lloyd is still terrorizing opposing goalkeepers.
After netting six goals at the women’s World Cup to earn the Golden Ball — awarded to the best player of the tournament — Lloyd picked up right where she left off.
Before the match, Johnson County executive Mike Sanders, who presented commemorative soccer balls to all seven World Cup participants playing in Monday night’s game, told Lloyd and her Houston teammates “please don’t score.”
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In the 45th minute of her Houston Dash’s 1-1 draw against FC Kansas City at Swope Soccer Village Monday night, Lloyd curled a free kick attempt toward the bottom right post.
FC Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart dove to her left and got her body on the ball, but it deflected off of her, then off the post, then off her back once more before it found the back of the net to put the Dash up 1-0.
“Overall, really happy that we came away with a point,” Lloyd said following her first NWSL game since the World Cup began. “We would’ve liked to come away with three. Unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
Lloyd has skyrocketed to national prominence after her World Cup performance, particularly her hat-trick in the first 16 minutes of the Final, which propelled the United States to a 5-2 win over Japan.
While games in the NWSL don’t provide for the same atmosphere as a World Cup Final, it’s still what Lloyd loves to do.
“It’s different. It’s obviously a different atmosphere,” Lloyd said. “But it’s still the game of soccer. It still is something that I love to do, and I’m a competitor. I still want to improve.”
The sellout crowd of 3,557 that packed the stadium — the vast majority cheering on the Kansas City — put their allegiance to the side for national pride by recognizing Lloyd during pregame introductions, as she drew an applause as loud as any home team player.
The match’s live-stream on YouTube drew more than 4,000 viewers at one point Monday night, a season-high, likely thanks to the participation of Lloyd and six other World Cup champions.
And for some spectators, like Lindsey Lancey, 28, Lloyd was a big part of the reason why the fans flocked to the field.
“She’s really easy to relate to,” Lancey said. “I used to play a lot of soccer growing up, so it’s really cool to see someone like that have so much success.”
When the final whistle blew, Lloyd exited the pitch to cheers of “Carli! Carli” and countless little girls wishing for a photo or autograph from their new hero.
“Life has definitely changed for me,” Lloyd said. “I’m the same player that I was five years ago. It’s just heightened a bit. I think I can be an inspiration to others that hard work gets you to the top.”