With France 2019 underway, former South Melbourne youth player James Galanis is confident his star pupil, two-time FIFA World Player Carli Lloyd will light up her fourth Women’s World Cup.
The Melbourne-raised coaching guru is the Technical Director of the New Jersey Olympic Development Program which has been a breeding ground for the best US male and female soccer players.
But it has been Galanis’ mentoring of arguably the world’s best female soccer player, Lloyd for over 16 years, that has been the reason why he is so highly regarded in American soccer circles.
The high point for the duo came four years ago when Lloyd’s hat trick in the opening 20 minutes of the women’s World Cup final helped secure victory for team USA over Japan.
In the lead up to France, Lloyd has been showing similar form with a glut of goals during the US’s warm up games. It’s led to furious debate amongst US media and fans about whether the 37-year-old should be in the starting 11 with Galanis fielding numerous calls from the Wall Street Journal, LA Times and NY Times.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos from his base in New Jersey the Greek Australian coach had no problem stating that the US will not be able to defend the World Cup unless Llyod plays from the beginning.
“This is a big story right now in the US, whether Carli should be playing,” he said.
“I am getting a lot of interview requests and I am honouring them because I know that if Carli doesn’t play the US won’t have a chance of winning. The fact that she is 37-years-old and that there is a perception out there that she is not capable of playing full games and that she should be a super substitute – that has definitely added fuel to the fire. Internally she does want to prove the doubters wrong because she knows she can impact whole games not just matches at the end.”
As well as being a 2015 Women’s World Cup winner, Lloyd is a two-time Olympic gold medallist and a two-time FIFA Player of the Year. Her record in big matches is phenomenal, including her 2015 World Cup Final hattrick, she scored winning goals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and netted in the 2017 FA Cup Final for Manchester City.
Taking time out from her busy schedule to speak to Neos Kosmos, Lloyd revealed that preparing for the challenge of France 2019 with Galanis has been business as usual.
“Honestly nothing has changed,” she said.
“In 2003 I was on the brink of quitting the sport all together because I got cut from the U21 national team and ever since then, James and I have been on this journey together. So we continue to work, to get better. It’s exciting and it’s always an honour to play at a World Cup, this my fourth. It’s another challenge and another chapter in this journey.”
But France 2019 poses new challenges for Lloyd who despite being named as co-captain of the US team has been mostly used as a bench player for the past couple of years. Despite this new role the football superstar is confident that with the help of Galanis’ mentoring she can reproduce the form of fours year ago at this World Cup.
“It’s about having visualisation and belief and wanting to be the person when it’s 0-0 and extra time when you need a goal to score – that’s when I want to be in those moments,” Lloyd said. “That’s when I think all right let’s get to work. This is the moment where I want to fire home a shot and score a goal. That’s why I focus on putting my head down and working hard with James every single day and having the ability to continuously get better.”
Meanwhile the Australian women’s team has its own issues after conceding eight goals in its previous two matches, with five of those coming against the US which featured Lloyd.
Galanis believes the team’s defence must improve if they are to have any chance in France.
“Australia has a lot of talent once you get to the midfield and up top but the thing that concerned me a lot when I watched the Matildas play against the US was their defensive organisation,” he said.
“They were not very organised and that is why they got exposed. They were leaking a lot of chances and it didn’t seem like the defence was on the same page with each other. Any time a team is conceding five goals there is going to be pressure on the coach and the team. If the US was conceding goals like that I’m sure there would be an uproar from the fans and the media.”