FourFourTwo's USWNT Top 50: No. 2 – Carli Lloyd

Our No. 3 player is also a U.S. captain. At No. 2 on our countdown of the best USWNT-eligible players in 2016 is legendary Carli Lloyd:

Carli Lloyd’s legacy is almost set in stone. The counting numbers will go up, and she may yet collect even more individual awards, but as far her status within the history of the game, she’ll forever be considered one of the best midfielders the U.S. has ever known.

Strangely, there’s still a strong group out there that pushes back against the notion, uniting their voices whenever the U.S. captain claims a spot like this. Perhaps that’s a nod to first impressions, as many will always see Lloyd as the miscast player persevering in central midfield next to Shannon Boxx. At this point, though, the lasting memories of Lloyd will be her constant clutch performances, the authoring of one of the greatest individual performances ever (the 2015 World Cup final), and the quality that may yet make her the sixth U.S. women’s player in history to hit the 100-goal mark.

Sitting on 96, Lloyd’s likely to hit the century mark early in 2017, but the fact that she can be counted on to deliver four early goals at 34 years old shouldn’t be overlooked. At a stage when most players have left the game or are beginning to accept their ends, Lloyd is enjoying what looks like a late prime.  In 21 appearances for the U.S. this year, Lloyd scored 17 times, giving her 50 goals in 70 games since 2013.

Her game has certainly changed, but it’s done so in much the same way as somebody like Cristiano Ronaldo, who has had shed some facets to his play as his body’s taken on miles. But the qualities that have remained for both Lloyd and Ronaldo are some of the most important in the game. They both continue to score goals at elite levels, demand defenses prioritize stopping them and, with that attention, make everybody more dangerous around them.

Lloyd’s U.S.-high 24 assists since 2013 are a testament to that, as well as a warning against depicting her as a pure goal-poacher. Even as this last phase of her career sees her move higher in the field, she has retained the same skill and vision that made her one of the U.S.’ most-respected players at her former position. And although many remain incredulous that the same player that complemented Boxx is now one of the most prolific in the world, Lloyd has truly become (and remains) one of the best players her national team has ever known.

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