Carli Lloyd returns to Dash, aims to lead playoff push
Although she was sleeping during most games because of a six-hour time difference between Houston and England, Carli Lloyd kept up with the Dash as closely as she could over the course of the season’s first eight matches. Unfortunately, that meant watching from afar as they tumbled to the bottom of the standings.
But Lloyd is back, and she hopes to do something about that. The two-time reigning FIFA Women’s Player of the Year returned from her three-month stint with Manchester City and trained with the Dash on Thursday. Lloyd will be on the field Saturday night when the Dash (2-6-0) host the Orlando Pride (2-3-3) at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The immediate goal is to win Saturday and snap a five-game losing streak. The long-term goal, Lloyd said Thursday, is to qualify for the postseason.
“Don’t give up on us yet,” she said. “We’ll be out there fighting.”
Their fight will be guided by interim coach Omar Morales, who was not with the Dash when Lloyd moved overseas. They met in person Thursday for the first time.
Morales has skyrocketed up the coaching ranks in the past eight months. Last fall he was the coach of a Division II college team. He was hired as a Dash assistant three months ago and now is the interim coach for the rest of the season.
Instead of coaching players without significant hope to forge a lengthy professional career, he is in charge of coaching one of the best American players of all time.
Getting to know coach
“I obviously don’t know too much about him, but I know the team really likes him,” Lloyd, 34, said. “I’ve experienced a lot of teams in women’s football. It is not necessarily the X’s and O’s. You have to be able to manage every single player. Every single player ticks in a different way.
“You need to realize how you can get the best out of every single player. He seems like a great people person. He wants to get to know everybody.”
Morales is welcoming Lloyd with open arms. He wouldn’t say if she will start but confirmed she will play even if it is as a substitute. Two weeks ago, he guessed he would let her roam the middle of the field trying to create or finish attacks.
No matter Lloyd’s role, Morales said she will have an immediate impact.
“We expect her to do great things for us,” Morales said. “One of the biggest things we don’t tend to talk about is she is a leader. We need leaders. On certain parts of the field, we have a young team. She is going to bring leadership and that extra voice that we need.”
One pivotal way in which Lloyd is expected to help is by scoring. The Dash have wasted chance after chance all season and desperately need to get out of their rut.
Lloyd is known for scoring goals, with nine in 19 games over two seasons with the Dash. Four of those goals and three assists came in the final five games of last season upon her return from international duty.
The Dash won three of those five games to double their win total from the first 15 games.
“She’s a phenomenal player, a born leader,” forward Rachel Daly said. “She brings that presence we’ve been missing. It is what we need.”
Lloyd has won a World Cup and two Olympic gold medals but never an NWSL championship. She cannot do that unless she leads the Dash to their first postseason berth.
Drive for the playofs
Because the team is seven points out of playoff position, there is a lot of work to do in 16 regular-season games. Lloyd said she’s ready for the challenge.
“For me, it is about coming here, moving us up the table one game at a time, and making players believe in themselves,” Lloyd said. “My whole mentality that is going to be geared toward the group is we have to be warriors. We have to fight and crawl our way to the top. We have to scrounge up points. We have to get the job done.”