E.A. Sports Today

Team USA-Haiti notebook

Lloyd just ‘doing what I can’ to help team score, friendly becomes a homecoming of sorts for one, Johnston in right place at right time

Carli Lloyd's goal-scoring ability for the U.S. Women's National Team has been the center of attention. On the cover, Team USA coach Jill Ellis talks about Sunday's 8-0 victory over Haiti. (Photos by Brant Locklier)

Carli Lloyd’s goal-scoring ability for the U.S. Women’s National Team has been the center of attention. On the cover, Team USA coach Jill Ellis talks about Sunday’s 8-0 victory over Haiti. (Photos by Brant Locklier)

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM – If there’s a more prolific player in the women’s soccer world these days, U.S. National Team coach Jill Ellis hasn’t seen her.

Midfielder Carli Lloyd scored her third hat trick in her last five matches Sunday in Team USA’s 8-0 rout of Haiti at Legion Field.

She scored her three goals in a 25-minute span of the first half and then called it a day.

“She almost had a fourth as she had one hit the crossbar; Carli really wanted that one, too,” Ellis said. “I think she is the best player in the world in the final third of the field and is getting out there and getting goals for us.”

Lloyd’s first goal came on a penalty kick. The second came off a clearing pass and the third came from right in front of the goal.

“My teammates got me the ball in good positions; the timing was there,” Lloyd said. “I am just trying to do what I can do to help the team win and create opportunities for us to score.”

The accolades pour in as easily as the goals. She won the Silver Boot and the Golden Ball at this year’s World Cup. The Silver Boot was for the most goals in the tournament, which included a hat trick in the finals. The Golden Ball goes to the best player.

She scored both goals in the Team USA’s 2-1 win over Japan in the championship game of the 2012 Olympics and the game-winner in the championship game of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a 1-0 overtime victory over Brazil.

She has scored 14 goals in her last eight matches and is in line to win the Women’s World Player of the Year with her amazing performance.

The 33-year-old from New Jersey just keeps getting better with age, but even she knows to slow down a little. She is also leading her Houston Dash team in the NWSL as they advance toward their season’s end and the schedule has been brutal.

“Sometimes I do get tired and it has been a grind trying to balance the National team, Houston and the other appearances,” she said. “I have had to low-key some of my personal training in order to get my rest, but I will be ready in February. The crowds here in Birmingham have been awesome and helped me get some energy. We have felt very welcome starting with the crowd at the airport when we arrived.”

Carli earned a degree in Exercise Science and Sports Studies from Rutgers and has the distinction of having an ice cream flavor named after her at the local ice cream shop. It was named “Carli’s Cake Batter Cookie Dough Kick.”

Brian plays with heavy heart

MORGAN BRIAN

MORGAN BRIAN

Sunday’s match with Haiti was a homecoming of sorts for Morgan Brian.

The U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder has Alabama connections as her family hails from Centreville. She had a lot of family and friends in the record crowd at Legion Field, but one of her biggest supporters was not among them.

Brian’s 78-year-old grandmother passed away on July 31, just a few weeks after proudly watching her granddaughter be a part of the World Cup Championship team.

”I had a lot of family and friends that got to come out and see me play today and that was really good,” Brian said. “I miss my grandmother, but I know she is in a better place.”

At 22, Brian is the youngest player on the U.S. team. The rising star has scored four goals in her first 37 games on the National team.

She is no stranger to success on the international stage as she was on the 20-U World Cup champion team in 2012. She was the best collegiate player in the country her last two years at the University of Virginia, where she was All-ACC four years in a row and All-American three. She was the No. 1 pick of the Houston Dash in the NWSL draft in 2015.

“I know my grandmother was watching somewhere and it was really nice to play back in Alabama,” she said. “The crowd was awesome and I know how important football is in this state. I am Auburn fan myself and it was good to see so many people out. The crowds are getting bigger and it is good to see women’s soccer growing and be able to be a part of it.”

Johnston enjoying the ‘journey’

JULIE JOHNSTON

JULIE JOHNSTON

Julie Johnston was in the right place at the right time as she slammed in the Team USA’s first goal of the match against Haiti.

Kelley O’Hara laid up what Johnston called a “perfect” corner kick and “I was able to just kick it in from there.”

Johnston, a 23-year old from Mesa, Ariz., who plays for the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL, brings energy to the U.S. team. She has scored five goals in her first 21 games with it.

The former college All-American has a plethora of international experience. She was the captain of the U.S. U-20 team that won the World Cup in 2012.

“I really love the sport of soccer and have enjoyed all the success we have,” she said. “I try to tell all the fans that it is OK to dream and dream big. It can actually happen to you if work hard and anything I can do to help the sport I try to do it. I am enjoying the journey.”

Part of the journey took her and some of her teammates to the set of ESPN’s Game Day from Tuscaloosa Saturday. Johnston made sure she was on her best TV behavior.

“My dad was a football player for LSU, so I had to be real careful what I said in Tuscaloosa,” she said. “The crowd over there was really great with the ‘USA, USA’ chants and all.”



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