If you follow women's soccer, you know Carli Lloyd.
And if there is one thing you know about Lloyd, it is that she has a well-earned reputation as an ultra competitive player with no off switch.
US Coach Jill Ellis said as much after last night's exhibition game against Portugal at Allianz Stadium in St. Paul. Lloyd scored two goals, one off a penalty kick, the other a poacher's goal in the box memorably captured in the photo above this post. An exhibition friendly against Portugal in a "Victory Tour "could be considered one of the more meaningless games in Lloyd's illustrious international career, which spans 284 appearances with 117 goals, including a hat trick in the 2015 World Cup final that was sealed with an audacious strike
from midfield that is arguably the best goal scored by any US player in a World Cup, regardless of gender. Yet there was a moment in the first half last night when Lloyd scuffed a volley in the box, and looked down in obvious frustration. She was taking this game absolutely seriously, and she was not satisfied.
It was all Carli Lloyd in the first half for the USWNT --(via @USWNT) pic.twitter.com/NycOviEWHh
— Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer) September 4, 2019
"She was fantastic tonight. She could have had a few more. Carli leaves everything on the pitch. I have tremendous respect for that. She did very well tonight," Ellis told reporters after the game.
But with important players like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Rose Lavelle out with injuries, Lloyd, a two-time FIFA World Player of the Year, was the marquee star of the night, so one could understand why a reporter in a post game scrum might come up with a question like, "With key players out, did you feel like you had to step up your game tonight, or give more?" It's the kind of formulaic question that veteran sports reporters can lean on to create stock narratives and their related headlines.
But context matters, and to ask a question like that to Lloyd, as an otherwise well-intentioned and talented fellow dude reporter did after the game last night, was to insult her professionalism. It also flew in the face of everything Lloyd has proven about herself since she first put on a US jersey in 2005.
To cite an example of non-soccer fans, it would be like asking Kobe during his playing years if he felt like he had really tried to win a particular game — the answer should be self-evident. And yes, it goes without saying that no one would have dared ask that question to Kobe, so the question remains, why was it being asked of Lloyd?
"I step up every week..."
I didn't catch exactky what she said at that point, and I'm still kicking myself that I wasn't rolling in that moment as I thought I was, but what was telling was how Lloyd finished her answer. She paused a beat, "And you should know better by now"*
He laughed awkwardly as Lloyd calmly turned turned her head and took the next question.
Afterward, I wondered if Lloyd had just been joking — perhaps it was a quip and nothing more, and maybe that look she gave the guy wasn't quite the glare I thought it was.
But I didn't have to wonder long because as I was packing up later, Lloyd happened to walk by.
"Hi Carli, quick question, were you like, telling off that reporter or just joking?" I managed to spurt out when I had her attention.
"A little bit of both," she said. "He should have known better."
"OK, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't misreading it. So, can I say you were firm in your response?"
"Definitely firm," she said, flashing a smile as she made her way out of the stadium.
: Lloyd had since chimed in on Twitter to expand on how she answered the question after the game:
Something along the lines of...I don’t feel the need to step my game up because certain players are Injured. I step my game up every game. Every game is a battle and I am Competing against my previous performance. He should know better
— Carli Lloyd (@CarliLloyd) September 4, 2019
Karma correction town: I confused part of what Lloyd said in the response to the group with what she she told me afterwards. In the scrum, she said "And you should know that by now," while afterwards she told me "he should know better, a phrase she repeated again today. And she began her quote with "I step up every week." I trimmed the description down as well. As I tried to make clear, I wasn't recording at that moment, and thankfully, Lloyd chimed in to add to what she said.
The point of this was never to single out a reporter, especially one who I believe is good at what he does on a consistent basis. As I've shown here, I am also capable of making dumb errors. Lloyd was making a larger point, one that deserved to be noted.