Carli Lloyd requested NWSL trade: 'I want to get back home'

Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle via AP

New Jersey native Carli Lloyd asked for the trade that caught U.S. teammate Christen Press by surprise.

SAN DIEGO -- The trades, for all intents and purposes a single three-way blockbuster, shook the landscape of women's soccer. The moves overshadowed the National Women's Soccer League's draft on Thursday and altered the courses of three franchises, not to mention three of the most recognizable stars in the sport.

And yet its genesis had less to do with changing the world than reclaiming what was familiar.

At 35 years old, Carli Lloyd is adamant she isn't even close to finished. But she is ready to go home.

"I just kind of came to this point with my husband, Brian, just the fact that there's a team in New Jersey, I'm from New Jersey, I played at Rutgers," Lloyd said. "And I want to get back home."

And so the first domino fell. The two-time FIFA world player of the year and co-captain of the U.S. women's national team took top billing in a trade in which such a distinction wasn't easily claimed. The Houston Dash traded Lloyd to New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC, which traded record goal scorer Samantha Kerr to the Chicago Red Stars. To complete the star carousel, the Red Stars sent U.S. national team standout Christen Press to the Dash.

Also moving, in addition to draft picks and roster spots, were Jen Hoy and Canadian international Janine Beckie to Sky Blue and Nikki Stanton to Chicago.

I think from a marketability standpoint, it's kind of a no-brainer to have me home -- and to actually kind of live like a normal person, live in my house, be with my husband, have my friends and family come up to the games.
Carli Lloyd, on last week's NWSL trade

Just 12 months ago Lloyd began a new year by venturing farther from home than ever before when she signed a short-term contract with Manchester City, with the understanding she would return to the Dash midway through the NWSL season. It was an opportunity to add another chapter to the story of a long career -- to experience competitions like the Champions League and FA Cup, share elevator chats with Pep Guardiola and soak up the environment of a football giant and the atmosphere of a soccer-mad culture.

All of which she did with no small success. But she suffered an ankle injury after her return to the United States, the second season in a row that was curtailed by injury and the third in a row in which she played a partial role for the Dash (the 2015 season interrupted by the World Cup). The ankle limited her availability for both club and country for the remainder of the year.

It was after contemplating all of those factors, along with coaching changes for both the Dash and Sky Blue, that Lloyd said she requested a trade home.

"I reached out to [Houston Dash president Chris Canetti], and obviously it's one of those things where I kind of dropped the bomb on him," Lloyd said. "But he listened, and he understood and said he'd get back to me and they'd figure everything out. ...

"I think from a marketability standpoint, it's kind of a no-brainer to have me home -- and to actually kind of live like a normal person, live in my house, be with my husband, have my friends and family come up to the games. I've stated over and over that I'm playing in another World Cup and Olympics and that will probably be it for me."

That Sky Blue hired Denise Reddy as coach -- she was an assistant coach in Chicago when Lloyd played there in the now-defunct Women's Professional Soccer -- was a point in favor of that team. But Lloyd said she also spoke with new Dash coach Vera Pauw about her plans.

"It wouldn't have been right of me to not shed some light on the situation and let her know I was actually requesting to be traded," Lloyd said. "So that she knew before she took the job."

It marks the seventh stop of Lloyd's professional career. She is the same age that Abby Wambach was when the U.S. women won the 2015 World Cup. But when Lloyd says she plans to play in the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics, it is safe to assume that she means that literally. She intends to be on the field and remain one of the most productive goal scorers in the world.

So it only made sense to make the setting the place she knows best.

"I've always been someone who has done a good job of compartmentalizing my life," Lloyd said. "I've got my friends and family. I've got Brian. I've got all these other things, business entities and everything. I feel like when I get on the pitch, I do a very good job of focusing on what I need to focus on. Of course, being home with my husband, I'm obviously newly married and we have a home in New Jersey, it's a no-brainer to be able to live that life."

Of course, one didn't need to look very far Saturday to see how far ranging the ripples are from a simple desire to go home. Fresh off completing the team's two-week training camp in the Los Angeles area, and intellectually stimulated by a morning spent at the Women's March in San Diego, Press sounded in very high spirits Saturday. But she acknowledged that the trade that sent her from a franchise she helped become a championship contender to one that has yet to make the playoffs and now starts anew came as a complete surprise.

"I worked really hard this offseason to have a good training camp," Press said. "Part of my beliefs just as a person is, 'How can I stay present in what I'm doing?' Obviously every part of my life is important and it needs to be nurtured, but I have to take the time to get through each piece. ... I'm really excited about 2018 in general. I think it's going to be a good year, I feel it. But I think in order for me to be my best self in all aspects of the world, I have to take it and be really present in each thing I'm doing.

"It was a surprise, that's for sure. But it's something that I realize that I'm going to need some time, I'm going to need to think about how I'm feeling, how I'm doing."

For Press, who grew up almost within jogging distance of where the U.S. women stayed for training camp, Monday will renew a much more familiar ritual for professional athletes: moving on into the unknown.

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