- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Carli Lloyd’s eyes light up as she talks about the opportunities that have opened up through her short-term move to Manchester City Women.

Two days in and the United States captain has already been dazzled by the lavish soccer facility where she will train, play and spend much of her time in England - the $300 million, 80-acre City Football Academy that Lloyd says is on “another level” to anything she has previously experienced.

She is excited about gaining a deeper insight into the tactics and playing styles at the highest echelon of European soccer, with the plan to take the best bits and implant them in the U.S. game when she returns home.

Then there’s the more personal experiences on offer, namely the possibility of a short flight to Barcelona to watch Lionel Messi and Neymar strut their stuff at Camp Nou and even spending a day watching tennis at Wimbledon.

The next three months are set to be a real eye-opener for the FIFA Player of the Year, who landed in northwest England early Monday to embark on her first playing stint outside the United States.

“There’ll be lots of doors that will open,” Lloyd told The Associated Press in an interview at City’s training complex.

Lloyd is one of the superstars of women’s soccer: a two-time Olympic champion and a world champion in 2015, the heartbeat of the U.S national team, a scorer of 96 international goals, and the winner of the last two world player of the year awards.

But at 34 and with maybe three or four years left at the top of the game, she decided the time was right to take up a new challenge by playing in Europe. An email from Man City manager Nick Cushing had landed in the inbox of her management company in late December, checking if Lloyd wanted to visit City while she was already in England on a Christmas vacation.

Within weeks, she had signed up to play for City - the English champion - in the Women’s Super League from April to June, a congested period that also takes in the Champions League and Women’s FA Cup. Then she’ll return to the Houston Dash.

Two factors swayed her: The quiet international schedule, and City’s reputation and state-of-the-art facilities on its campus that houses all of its various teams - from the under-8s to the senior men’s and women’s teams.

“They have this whole empire in place,” Lloyd said. “Nothing in the U.S. compares to this.”

Her first days in England have been something of a blur but Lloyd, who is staying in an apartment in the city, is getting used to her new routine. The team eats breakfast and lunch together at the campus, players have to wear their kit at all times, they can’t use their cell phones in the meal rooms, and the use of Wi-Fi is banned in certain places.

“Yesterday, I left the facility at 7:30 p.m.,” she said. “I just stayed to do extra stuff. How can you not? This is awesome.”

The New Jersey-born Lloyd says she is enjoying the relative anonymity of life in Manchester. The most striking thing so far, she says, is how relaxed the people are compared to in America where “people are just so into their work.” She’s also trying to make language adjustments to fit in with the locals.

“I’m saying ‘car park,’ ‘pitch,’ ‘football,’” she said, laughing. “I like the culture over here, it’s all football. I know back home, its slowly getting there. But it’s great to be in this environment where everybody is a die-hard football fan.”

Lloyd launches her City career in a Super League match against Reading on Saturday. Then the games come thick and fast, starting the following week when City plays Danish team Fortuna Hjorring in the Champions League.

She has watched some City matches via Facebook Live but admits to knowing little about many of her new teammates and the teams she’ll come up against.

Not that she sees it as a problem.

“My mindset as a player always has been and always will be, is that it doesn’t matter who I am playing against or what type of player, for me it’s about me and competing against myself,” she said. “I don’t know who I’m playing against half the time.”

Lloyd expects the style of play to be less physical compared to the American league, but “with more emphasis on the tactical and the technical.”

It will be a learning experience for her, something she will value as an ambassador of women’s soccer.

“Spreading the message (about women’s soccer), that’s key,” she said. “I’m not going to play forever so for the next three or four years, I want to continue to make the game better than when I came into it. So being over here, I hope that does have an impact globally.

“I hope I can get some ideas about how things are done over here, go back home and make things a little bit better. That’s important to me.”

___

Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

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