Carli Lloyd captures Golden Ball Award in record performances at FIFA Women’s World Cup

Adding to her legend, American midfielder Carli Lloyd proved to be the factor in the United States winning their first FIFA Women’s World Cup title since 1999. Considering that she also scored the gold medal winning goal at the 2012 London Summer Games, she has elevated herself to a superstar status that has made her the face of US Soccer, akin to the likes of Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm.

Awarded the Golden Ball Award as the top player at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, she entertained the capacity crowd in Vancouver with the performance of a lifetime. In the first five minutes of the game, Lloyd scored twice to provide the United States with a 2-0 lead, the fastest two goals scored in a championship game. Of note, it would prove to be a lead that they would not relinquish.

Taking into account that the title game was a rematch of the 2011 game, a loss suffered against Japan, it had been a very long four years of contemplation. Although the gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games provided consolation, the 2015 victory resulted in redemption.

Lloyd continued her heroics by scoring at the 16th minute, resulting in the fastest hat trick in Women’s World Cup history. In addition, she became the only American woman to record a hat trick in a championship game. Two of her goals reflected her dominance on the pitch. One goal resulted in a superb pass from the corner by Megan Rapinoe, who had to sit out the quarterfinal match against China due to a pair of yellow cards.

As the Japanese defenders were focused on the ball, Lloyd, who had been at the perimeter, quickly ran up the field and tapped in Rapinoe’s pass with her left foot, past the Japanese defense. Another goal saw Lloyd score at a long distance, as the ball bounced off the Japanese goalkeeper’s hand and into the net, to a roar of approval from the proud American fans in attendance.

In the aftermath of a 5-2 final, Lloyd would finish the FIFA Women’s World Cup with six goals in seven games, tying Germany’s Celia Sasic for the tournament lead in the race to the Golden Boot. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Lloyd showed remarkable endurance by playing in every minute of every U.S game in the tournament.

USA soccer heroes appear on four collectible Sports Illustrated covers

Building on the momentum of having Ronda Rousey grace its cover, Sports Illustrated (SI) has made a profound statement on the growing impact of women’s sport. Taking into account that late spring is playoff season in the NBA and NHL, it would have not been surprising to have a cover devoted to one of their sports. Instead, SI rightfully devoted their cover to a preview of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Abby Wambach on 1 of 4 variant covers for Sports Illustrated's 2015 World Cup coverage

Abby Wambach on 1 of 4 variant covers for Sports Illustrated’s 2015 World Cup coverage

In fact, it is actually four different collectible covers that can be found on newsstands. Of note, four members of the United States national women’s soccer team are featured on said covers; led by forwards Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and midfielder Carli Lloyd. As a side note, subscribers receive a team cover, which features Leroux, Lloyd, Morgan and Wambach, who have collectively scored 331 goals in international play..

For Morgan, there may be a slight tinge of irony. Like the aforementioned Rousey, both have appeared in SI’s world-famous Swimsuit Issue. The chance for both to make an appearance on the cover is an opportunity to look beyond their sex appeal and celebrate their accomplishments, while simultaneously serving as role models for young girls.

Considering that the 35 year-old Wambach is in the twilight of her career, the chance to be featured on SI’s cover represents another milestone in her outstanding career. With 182 career goals, the most of any woman in the history of the sport, the one championship she has yet to win is the World Cup. Should the US emerge victorious in the gold medal game in Vancouver, expect another cover appearance for Wambach.

One element that has not been overlooked by Canada’s soccer fans is the fact that Leroux was born north of the border. The cover displays great bravura as the caption indicates that Leroux will silence Canada’s boos. With the USA’s first two games in Group play taking part in Winnipeg (its province borders the state of Minnesota), the number of American fans in attendance ensures there are no boos. As a side note, the USA’s third game takes place in Edmonton (where Canada played its first two Group games), the northern-most host city in the event, there may be some boos to come.

The key storyline of the issue is one of redemption. In addition to the goal of winning its first World Cup title since 1999, which was a landmark moment for women’s sport in America, motivation is high after the bitterness of a shootout loss to Japan in the 2011 title game. Compounded by the gender discrimination controversy over the use of artificial turf, America’s entry in this year’s World Cup has not been lacking in storylines.

Regardless of the outcome, the impact of all four covers signifies a remarkable victory. Punctuating the relevance of women’s soccer as a point of pride for American sports fans, perhaps it may lead to increased coverage of Women’s Professional Soccer, along with other female sports.

Female sporting heroes earn the trading card treatment

While the annual Topps release known as Allen and Ginter is classified as a baseball card set, its issues featuring celebrities and athletes from other sports has made it a special collectible for many card collectors. The card designs try to recapture the magic of the original Allen and Ginter tobacco cards from the late 19th Century, which are considered some of the most esthetically beautiful cards ever made.

As 2014 marks the ninth year of the revival of the remarkable brand, one of its unique aspects is the fact that the set always features prominent female athletes in its set. While there are the obligatory cards, including cards printed on metal, pop-up booklet cards and cards that will be adorned with the actual skeletal remains of an animal (numbered 1/1), several female athletes will be featured on randomly inserted autograph cards along with memorabilia cards.

For the 2014 edition, the female athletes given the cardboard treatment cover a wide range of unique sports. Power lifter Laura Phelps is the first female in the set, found on card number 6. Diana Nyad, who captured the hearts and minds of admirers the world over by swimming from Cuba to Florida graces card number 62.

Of note, athletes are not the only women to be featured in this unique set. While card 100 features Queen Victoria, actress Felicia Day finds her way into the set as number 119 and card 243 includes Helen Keller, whose struggles with disability raised awareness several generations ago. A pair of beauty queens is also part of this year’s offering. Erin Brady, the reigning Miss USA graces number 112 while Miss Universe, Maria Gabriela Isler can be found on card number 254.

Jenny Dell (card number 164), a popular broadcaster who covers Major League Baseball, is also part of this year’s offering, following a popular trend, which included Fox Sports personality Erin Andrews in the 2013 edition of the set. Wrestler Jordan Oliver joins Dell and the rest of the female sporting figures in the set.

Two American heroes from the Summer Games cross paths again in Allen and Ginter. Sprinting superstar Allyson Felix and 2012 Summer Games gold medalist Carli Lloyd are sequentially numbered in the set, gaining card numbers 213 and 214. As a side note, this is not the first time that Lloyd has earned the cardboard treatment. She has also been featured on products from Panini and Upper Deck.

Race car driver Tanner Foust can be found on card number 224. She is not the first female racer to be featured in Allen and Ginter’s card set. Danica Patrick was featured in the set’s inaugural release back in 2006.

In the 300-card base set, the last two female athletes found in the set include a rising superstar in golf, Danielle Kang and fitness champion Samantha Briggs. Kang and Briggs can be found on card numbers 273 and 276.

While Upper Deck products such as World of Sports and Goodwin Champions have also made efforts to feature female athletes on their card products, it is encouraging to see Allen and Ginter continue to set the way. In every one of their nine card releases, female athletes (and celebrities) have earned the cardboard treatment. Every year, their inclusion of female athletes only grows, continuing to feature prominent athletes from the past and the present.

Carli Lloyd plays the game of her life

Following in the footsteps of legends like Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy, and Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd scored the two biggest goals of her career. In what was the game of her life, the 30 year old from New Jersey logged a goal in each half, as the US climbed to a 2-0 lead over Japan at Wembley Stadium. Despite a late goal by Japan, the US would clinch the gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games.

This would not mark the first time that Lloyd would score big goals in Summer Games play. At the 2008 Beijing Games, she scored the game winning goal in a 1-0 victory against Japan. She would notch the gold medal winning goal in overtime versus Brazil. She would be named the US Women’s Soccer Player of the Year for 2008. While playing in the shadows of more popular players such as Alex Morgan and Hope Solo, she has quietly built a world class career that would be the envy of players worldwide.

With the tension of having lost the 2011 World Cup to Japan, Lloyd and her teammates faced tremendous pressure. The eighth minute of the 2012 Gold Medal match resulted in Lloyd’s first goal, a header off a pass from Alex Morgan that was meant for Abby Wambach. Before halftime, Lloyd nearly scored again but the Japanese goalkeeper Fukumoto made an impressive save to deny Lloyd. With nine minutes gone in the second half, Lloyd ran approximately 30 yards before launching a shot that resulted in the second score of the game.

Despite strong performances by Japanese players Saki Kumagai, Yuki Ogimi and Aya Miyama, a repeat of their championship performance at the 2011 FIFA World Cup was not meant to be. For Lloyd, the road to victory at London 2012 was marked by other goals.

At the Summer Games Qualifying tournament in Vancouver, British Columbia, Lloyd made her presence felt. In a Group B Match versus Mexico, the US bested them by a 4-0 tally, marked by Lloyd’s first career hat trick. In addition, she was named player of the match. For Lloyd, the honours would not end there. With a 3-0 defeat of Costa Rica in the semi-final of the Qualifying Tournament, Lloyd was named player of the match once more. She would finish with six goals (tied for the team lead) and three helpers, as the US went undefeated.

For Lloyd, her time in the spotlight was long overdue. The former Rutgers Scarlet Knights soccer star (named 2001 Big East Rookie of the Year), has had 141 caps with 40 goals with the US women’s team. The year 2007 marked the dawn of Lloyd’s presence as a prime time player. She was the top scorer and most valuable player at the 2007 Algarve Cup. In addition, she played in the 2007 FIFA World Cup, a first for her. In starting three first round games, she would finish the World Cup third on the team in scoring, with nine tallies and three assists.

She competed for the Chicago Red Stars in the first season of Women’s Professional Soccer in 2009. Despite making 14 starts, she scored two goals and recorded an assist.  At the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup she scored her first ever goal in World Cup play during a 3-0 win versus Colombia. Lloyd also left her mark in one of the most dramatic and exciting World Cup games ever played. After fighting back from a 2-1 deficit to force overtime against Brazil, Lloyd had a penalty kick against the Brazilians, which would help the US advance to the semifinals. A harbinger of things to come, Lloyd would deliver the goods once again in a golden day of retribution.