After nine tedious weeks rehabbing from an ankle injury suffered in mid-August, Carli Lloyd is finally ready to return to action.
The Delran native is back with the U.S. women's national team as it faces South Korea in a pair of friendlies, Thursday in New Orleans (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1) and Sunday in Cary, N.C. (2 p.m., ESPN).
When the injury happened, it was officially described as a sprained ankle. That was true on paper, but in reality, it was more painful.
"I was severely close to breaking my whole ankle," Lloyd said. "I had a high ankle sprain and a bone contusion. … If I hadn't been diligent with all the things that I've been doing, icing and therapy, there'd be no way I'd be decently ready to go into camp."
Lloyd is renowned for being not just diligent in her training habits but ferocious. Yet as the 35-year-old's focus shifts ever more toward what will be her final World Cup campaign in 2019, she has also come to appreciate the value of rest.
"The older I'm getting, the wiser I'm becoming, and realizing that breaks are good for you," she said. "If I could have a perfect world where I'm able to train double days every single day and still feel like Superwoman, I would continue to do that. But breaks are very important for the mind and body."
She has used the time off the field in a range of ways, from spending time with her family to tending to business matters.
Last month, Lloyd joined Ellen DeGeneres, David Beckham and other celebrities in New York for a promotional campaign for the National Women's Soccer League run by its broadcast partner, A+E Networks.
The league concluded its fifth season over the weekend as the Portland Thorns won the championship.
"I just thank [A+E] for pouring their heart and soul, and obviously their money, into our game, because we need that," Lloyd said. "We need these games publicized, we need people watching."
The national team rarely lacks for publicity, of course. There will be plenty of attention on this week's games even though they are friendlies.
Lloyd is already thinking about next year, which will be headlined by CONCACAF's qualifying tournament for the 2019 World Cup. It is not lost on her that the next World Cup an American team has a shot at will be hers.
"Like we've seen recently, we don't want to take anything for granted," she said.
That was a none-too-subtle allusion to the U.S. men's team's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Lloyd was as shocked as everyone else.
"It's just one of those things where you just really can't believe that it's happening," she said. "And it's a shame because I know the men are probably absolutely gutted. I know a number of them will probably never play in another World Cup ever again."
Lloyd added that "overall, just for the sport in general for our country, it's a sad moment."
She preferred to stay away from speculating on the potential for big changes within the U.S. Soccer Federation. But she acknowledged that a truly dramatic overhaul — especially if president Sunil Gulati is ousted — could impact the women's national team, too. After all, Gulati was a central figure in the women's team's hard-won fight for better pay and benefits