The road to a third-consecutive Olympic gold medal begins for South Jersey’s Carli Lloyd and her fellow United States Women’s National Team members before the Rio Olympics even officially open and Lloyd says the biggest enemy for Team USA being golden again is themselves.
Lloyd, the team's captain in Rio, said the U.S. remains favored to win the title despite the revamped team.
"I think the toughest (opponents) are going to be ourselves," said Lloyd, who scored a hat trick in the World Cup final against Japan. "No other team should intimidate our team. Of course, there are going to be tough contenders, but honestly, not a single team intimidates me."
The march to gold begins Wednesday night when the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team takes the pitch against New Zealand and for Lloyd, a Rutgers University alum, she will see many new teammates since they won gold in London.
"There's been a little bit of a change in the roster, but it's good," the Delran, New Jersey native said. "I think we have about 11 players who are competing in their first Olympics, which is a huge turnaround, but I also think that those players bring experience, they've been around this team, they've earned quite a few a caps with the team and are doing very well. So I think that, mixed in with us old folks, we will be all right." [[389087412, C]]
Seeking a fourth straight Olympic gold (a third for Lloyd), the Americans are without New Jersey’s Christie Rampone because of injury, while Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez are pregnant.
The Olympics are also the team's first major competition since the retirement of stars Abby Wambach and Lauren Holiday following last year's World Cup triumph in Canada. [[388950791, C]]
The team does, however, return New Jersey's Tobin Heath who is looking to earn her third gold medal as well.
Pennsylvania's Meghan Klingenberg and Julie Johnston, who is engaged to Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, both make their first Olympic appearance.
The U.S. is trying to win its fifth gold medal since women's soccer became an Olympic sport in 1996. [[388402421, C]]
"I think we are always feeling the pressure of coming back with gold. It's just in our DNA," Lloyd said. "Even if we hadn't won the World Cup we'd still be under tremendous pressure to win. It comes with being the No. 1 team in the world and going for a fourth consecutive gold medal. We are super excited to get started. I know this team has a lot of talent and depth and we have the opportunity to really create history."