“We make it exciting,” Lloyd said. “And people like exciting.”
It was absolutely typical of this team that the game was dominated by a player who craved greater notice. Lloyd is a eight-year veteran, a workaday midfielder, a position “often overlooked,” she said. “I’m the engine, and I do the dirty work.”
She often felt limited in her role and overshadowed by the huge starpower of teammates such as Solo and Abby Wambach. “I wanted to prove everybody wrong, that I’m a special player,” she said.
So she played the scene-stealer, practically robbing her own teammate of the ball in a lunge for attention.
They were chippy, edgy, and longed for renown. They were sick of the deference paid to their elders. There was palpable tension between them and their legendarily beloved predecessors: the group led by Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain, who literally founded world-class women’s soccer in America with their splendid run of championships from 1987 to 2004, winning two gold medals and two World Cup titles.
This group was still seeking a larger identity. The London Games opened with a testy exchange between Solo and Chastain over Chastain’s gently scolding comment on NBC that the Americans needed to work on their defense. It was time to promote this team and quit living in the past, Solo suggested. That was some big talk to live up to, especially from a team that, while plenty accomplished, hadn’t quite achieved greatness. Although they won a gold medal four years ago in Beijing, they hankered for something more, something that justified their billing and popularity. And they were still scalded over their loss to Japan in the World Cup a year ago in a penalty-kick shootout.
What did they want? They wanted renown. “My point to this group is, you’ve got to win to become legends,” Wambach said.
There was the lingering question of what they craved more, victory or attention. Although they were huge and powerful, they lived on the edge and seemed to squander opportunities. Desperation became part of their identity, dramatic stomach-clenching victories. It didn’t seem to bother them, because they assumed they could create enough scoring chances to overcome anything. They shrugged off the close call of their 4-3 comeback victory over Canada in the semifinals, in which they gave up three goals but won in extra time.