GLASGOW, Scotland - As a tough Jersey girl, Carli Lloyd wasn't about to go quietly into the night when she lost her starting job with the U.S. women's soccer team. Instead, she refocused herself and arrived at the Olympics on a mission, and the hard work showed when she came off the bench to score the winning goal in the Americans' opening victory.
Now she's a starter again. With Shannon Boxx nursing an ailing right hamstring, Lloyd patrolled the midfield from the opening whistle Saturday and scored the third goal as the Americans beat Colombia 3-0.
"When I got here, I fought like I was the underdog and I was winning my spot back," the Delran, N.J., native said Friday. "And I fought day-in and day-out the whole two weeks we were training here. I was in shape, I was feeling good, and that's what it's all about. I didn't put my head down. I didn't pout. My teammates know what I can do.
"I knew that I'd get my opportunity. I knew that I'd seize it and show everyone that I do deserve to be out there."
Boxx was injured early in the first half of the 4-2 win over France and is day-to-day. When she went down, Lloyd only had time to do a quick warm-up jog before running onto the field. She nevertheless showed she was ready, taking a more defensive role to counter fellow midfielder Lauren Cheney but also striking when it mattered, putting the Americans ahead for good with a long strike in the second half.
"That's a very good way to jump in the game and make a difference," coach Pia Sundhage said. "She's been professional. She never once questioned anything. Of course, she wants to play, but you can tell that she was prepared coming into that game."
Lloyd, who turned 30 this month, has been a regular in the starting lineup since 2006. She started every game she played last year and led the U.S. team in minutes at the World Cup. It wasn't until three games before the Olympics that Sundhage started using Lloyd as a sub in the coach's search for the right combination amid a talented group of midfielders.
Sundhage added the caveat that the team was so deep that game-winners would be coming off the bench. Still, no amount of words could hide the fact that it was a demotion for Lloyd.
"I started to get a little down on myself," Lloyd said. "But looking back on everything, I think it was all a positive."
Lloyd said she went home during a break between the team's training camps and worked out for some four hours a day, getting fitter and sharper. She also knew she had to embrace the "game-winners on the bench" mantra and be ready when her number was called.
"It made me dig deeper. I always work hard, but this particular instance made me dig deeper, and I love the challenge," Lloyd said. "I don't back down from a challenge."
Lloyd called her goal against France one of the top five in her career, although it doesn't compare to her game-winner in the gold-medal game at the Beijing Olympics four years ago. She also doesn't know whether she'll keep the starting job if Boxx returns.
But it won't be because of a lack of willpower. The graduate of Delran High School and Rutgers University reminded reporters that she's worth watching even when she isn't scoring goals.
"I'm a Jersey girl," she said. "And I enjoy crunching people."