Gotham FC’s Carli Lloyd scores in final regular season home game

The fans who filled Red Bull Arena’s lower bowl sensed what was coming in the 70th minute, when one sideline referee held up the neon green and orange flag to signal a substitution and another began to push numbers into the electronic board. The green digits read 20. The red ones read 10. And that combination signaled the end of Carli Lloyd’s day. 

Lloyd had spent her final seconds on the field questioning why play had been stopped after a Racing Louisville FC foul, why she couldn’t have kept dribbling the ball, trying to set up NJ/NY Gotham FC’s second goal of the game, but then the signal from the sideline came. 

Then the fans, some donning Lloyd’s No. 10 jersey and others holding homemade signs that penned her name, cheered the loudest they had all afternoon — louder than Lloyd’s pregame introduction, louder than the crescendo of noise every time she touched the ball, even louder than her goal in the 52nd minute — as Évelyne Viens awaited her near the Gotham FC bench. 

Sunday continued Lloyd’s retirement tour heading into the end of the 2021 NWSL season, complementing her last game outside Philadelphia, near her home town, on Oct. 6 and her last national team game on Tuesday. 

“I feel like I’ve been on this never-ending farewell game tour,” Lloyd joked in her postgame press conference. 

This one was her last regular-season home game in her home state and it ended in a 1-1 draw against Racing Louisville FC with Lloyd scoring the lone goal — a fitting unfolding of the Carli Lloyd Farewell Match. 

Fans say thank you to Carli Lloyd for all she’s done for soccer.
Annie Wermiel

“Not a lot of athletes get to dictate when they want to leave their sport, and not a lot of athletes get to leave on top,” Lloyd said. “Not a lot of athletes get a two-plus month farewell tour.” 

It’s not completely over, though. With Sunday’s draw and the Houston Dash’s 1-0 loss to the Washington Spirit, Gotham FC backed into the NWSL playoffs as the fifth seed in the six-team field. Gotham FC will play next Sunday at the Chicago Red Stars. 

Carli Lloyd heads the ball during her final match.
Annie Wermiel

After the match, Lloyd stood near the middle of the field — her arms crossed and tugging the sleeves of her jersey — while a ceremonial video played. The Lloyd on the screen talked about wanting to inspire the next generation of soccer players, about how when she started playing the attendance numbers paled in comparison to what they’ve reached now. Then, once the tribute had ended, Lloyd waved to that next generation of soccer players and game attendees crowding the rows behind the benches. 

“It’s obviously been way different from my start to my finish,” Lloyd said. “I think that that’s really good, that’s a good sign. You have to put people in place, you have to allow people to grow, you have to empower others to take charge and lead in their very own way.” 

Carli Lloyd, who is retiring, interacts with the fans.
Annie Wermiel

Before the game, a “MISSION COMPLETE. THANK YOU CARLI,” sign flashed across the video screen, and others popped up during warm-ups. Gotham FC’s 11 starters all strolled out to the field wearing matching No. 10 jerseys, Lloyd’s name etched across each of their backs. It created an emotional buzz that reverberated throughout the sections every time Lloyd touched the ball, a buildup to the two key moments that grew to define her final home game. 

The first came in the 52nd minute when Elizabeth Eddy sent a cross-field pass to Lloyd and she bounced a header into the right corner of the ne, pumping her fist in celebration. And the second happened 18 minutes later, when Lloyd strolled toward the home sideline for the final time. She motioned her hands at Viens as if ushering her substitute onto the field, and then continued down the Gotham FC bench, hugging head coach Scott Parkinson and the rest of her teammates. 

When she reached the final chairs and sat down, she pulled a pink pinnie over her jersey, the No. 10 now partially covered, and sat back. And for the remainder of the match, Lloyd watched as the future of the Gotham FC — the future of the sport she’d helped shape at both the national and club level — continued without her.