After scoring a goal in three consecutive matches in the knockout stage of the Women's World Cup, Rutgers alum and New Jersey native Carli Lloyd has grown into a national sensation in a matter of weeks.
In the United States' 2-0 victory over World No. 1 Germany, Lloyd buried a penalty kick in the 69th minute for the gamewinner and then added a beautiful assist on Kelley O'Hara's insurance goal in the 84th minute. While her goal was the difference-maker, her assist may have been even more impressive.
However, that is not to diminish her penalty kick. On a stage this big with thousands of fans screaming, there may not be anything more nerve-wracking than a PK. Just ask Germany's Celia Sasic, the World Cup's leading scorer, who shanked her penalty just a few minutes before Lloyd's.
By just watching the two players' demeanors, you could predict who would make and miss their attempts. Sasic looked nervous and wide-eyed, and rushed her shot, pushing it wide left. Lloyd was composed, taking a deep breath before burying her attempt into the right side of the net.
That is why she wears the armband. Not Abby Wambach. Not Alex Morgan. Not Hope Solo. Those stars may garner more media and fan hoopla, but it's Lloyd who makes the U.S. team tick.
With the United States struggling to manufacture scoring opportunities in the group stage, head coach Jill Ellis moved Lloyd into a more attacking midfielder role. The move certainly paid off, with Lloyd scoring goals in three straight games. But it hasn't been just the goal-scoring. Lloyd is the catalyst for the U.S. attack, swinging balls from sideline-to-sideline and firing through balls between the seams of the defense.
Lloyd hasn't just been the best player for the United States, but she's been the best player in the World Cup.
"This is what we train for. This is the blood, sweat, tears, everything," Lloyd said in a postgame interview. "I know this was a great game, a great win, but my eyes are all on the final right now."
Spoken like a true captain.