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Women’s World Cup: Carli Lloyd and U.S. teammates play the waiting game

United States midfielder Carli Lloyd is introduced during a send-off ceremony ahead of the FIFA Wome
American midfielder Carli Lloyd acknowledges fans during a World Cup send-off ceremony before an exhibition game against Mexico on May 26.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

On her first day in Paris, Carli Lloyd said she “just kind of chilled out” at her hotel. That’s what she did the day before that.

And much of last week too.

“I’m a little bored, to be honest,” she said Friday. “There’s only so many Netflix [programs].”

Blame a Women’s World Cup schedule that had the U.S. playing the last of 12 group-play openers, five days after the tournament started. That was 16 days after the team played their final exhibition game at home.

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For women used to playing once a week, the waiting has seemed interminable.

“I just want to play,” said forward Mallory Pugh, one of 11 U.S. players who waited their whole lives to play in a World Cup, only to get to France and be told to wait a bit longer.

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When taking the field for their first game, the Americans were told again to hold on.

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“We had some kind of TV delay,” midfielder Samantha Mewis said. “We were all ready, and then the ref was like ‘sorry’ and we had to wait like a full minute to start. I remember just looking at [teammate Megan Rapinoe] and being like, ‘Well, we’ve waited this long.’ ”

The pause didn’t seem to hurt the team or Mewis, who scored two goals and assisted on two others in a 13-0 rout of Thailand. But now the U.S. is in a holding pattern again since its second group-play game isn’t until Sunday, when it will face Chile at Parc des Princes, on the edge of Paris.

“I would actually like to play [now]. I think all of us would,” Lloyd said.

Boredom aside, Lloyd said the days off now could benefit the U.S. later. If the Americans make it to the semifinals, something they’ve done in every previous Women’s World Cup, they’d play three games in the tournament’s final 10 days.

“As you get deeper into the tournament, which we hope we do, those days are going to come in handy,” she said. “It’s just kind of the nature of it. And it might work to our advantage.”

No player on the U.S. team understands the rhythms of a major tournament better than Lloyd, who has played in three Olympics and is taking part in her fourth Women’s World Cup. Through trial and error, she’s found a formula that works.

In her first two World Cups, in 2007 and 2011, friends and relatives came to see her play. And the U.S. lost.

In her first Olympic tournaments, her friends and family watched from home. And the U.S. won.

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Same with the World Cup four years ago.

“I’m not a superstitious person,” Lloyd said. “[But] this is a trend.

“So I’m keeping it same.”

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Pugh, sitting beside her teammate, smiled.

“That’s a good idea,” she said.

That can lead to some long days. While other players such as Pugh, whose family was scheduled to arrive Friday, and Mewis have been able to while away some of their down time with friends and relatives, Lloyd said she’s been “just kind of on my own, doing my thing, focusing.”

“For me it works,” she continued. “I don’t have to worry about my friends and family, whether they’re having fun. Or if I go see them for 15, 20 minutes and then maybe I feel a little bit guilty I should have spent another five minutes with them.

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“I don’t have to worry about them at all. And it’s fantastic.”

Playing time is a worry for Lloyd though. A two-time world player of the year, Lloyd lost her starting spot with the national team last year and has started just once in 10 appearances this year.

While she hasn’t lost her effectiveness, picking up a goal or an assist in five straight games, Lloyd isn’t satisfied with her new role as Alex Morgan’s backup.

“If I was satisfied with that, I really shouldn’t be here. That’s just not who I am as a person and player,” said Lloyd, who has seven goals in her last five Women’s World Cup games, the last coming in a 33-minute appearance off the bench against Thailand.

“I know that my ability is there. There’s honestly nothing that’s holding me back except for the coach’s decision.”

She doesn’t agree with that decision by coach Jill Ellis, but Lloyd said she respects it and has accepted the challenge of being ready when called on — no matter how long she has to wait.

“I haven’t sat here and pouted around and been a horrible teammate,” she said. “I’ve showed up every single day at training and been the hardest-working player I can possibly be.

“I just want to do anything I can to help the team. Nothing’s really changed.”

kevin.baxter@latimes.com | Twitter: @kbaxter11


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