Caitlin Murray, ESPNAug 3, 2023, 12:06 AM ET


Caitlin Murray is a general editor for She has reported on and written about soccer for The New York Times, The Guardian, Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, the Associated Press, and others.

She authored a book about the history of the U.S. women’s national team called “The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer,” which made “best of” lists in Vanity Fair, The Financial Times, NPR and The Los Angeles Times. On Twitter and Instagram, she’s @caitlinmurr.

AUCKLAND, New Zealand – United States women’s national team captain Lindsey Horan pushed back against negative comments from retired former teammate and pundit Carli Lloyd, saying such criticism of the team’s mentality “hurts” and is “frustrating” but it’s just “noise.”

Lloyd stirred controversy by criticizing her former team after a 0-0 draw against Portugal to close the Women’s World Cup group stage. Lloyd retired from the team in 2021 and has played with most of this current USWNT roster and for coach Vlatko Andonovski.

“It’s kind of frustrating for me to hear,” Horan said on Thursday, “especially knowing this team and knowing how much we put into every single game, how much preparation we put into every single game, seeing our trainings, seeing how hard we work.”

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“Again, it’s noise and, again, it’s an opinion and everyone is entitled to their own opinion – we know that’s how it goes,” Horan added. “But for me, I always want to defend my team and say: you have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes, you have no idea every single training what we’re doing individually, collectively, etcetera.

“So, for anyone to question our mentality hurts a little bit but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t really care. It’s what’s going inside of the team and getting ready for that next game.”

The 0-0 draw to Portugal on Tuesday was a disappointment for the No. 1-ranked U.S. team, the overwhelming favorite to beat No. 21-ranked Portugal, especially since a loss could’ve eliminated the USWNT from the tournament. Ana Capeta nearly scored for Portugal about two minutes into stoppage time, but her shot bounced off the left post.

With the draw, however, the USWNT held onto second place in Group E and advance to the knockout stage of the tournament, where they will face Sweden in the round of 16.

Lloyd was one of several commentators to strongly criticize the USWNT players over their performance immediately after the match ended.

“You never want to take anything for granted,” Lloyd said. “You put on that jersey and you want to give it everything you have, for the people that came before you and the people that are gonna come after you, and I’m just not seeing that passion. I’m just seeing a very lackluster, uninspiring, taking-it-for-granted, where winning and training and doing all that you can to be the best possible individual player is not happening.”

Lloyd’s comments prompted Andonovski to respond that it was “insane” to question the team’s mentality in his post-match press conference on Tuesday.

By Wednesday, Lloyd attempted to clarify her comments, saying: “I was very critical of the team last night. I had some time to reflect, to sleep on it and I want people to understand that I care deeply about this team.

“I poured my heart and soul into this team for 17 years and it was based off of a legacy that was just passed down from generation to generation. … And so my comments were reflective on me wanting to see that legacy continue to be passed down from generation to generation.”

Lloyd, who retired at the end of 2021 after 16 years on the national team, is now a commentator for Fox Sports, the English-language broadcaster of the Women’s World Cup in the United States. She has been a frequent critic of the team since retiring, rallying against a culture of the team that she said had moved away from focusing on winning.

In the aftermath, the USWNT players have admitted they didn’t play well against Portugal, but have maintained an upbeat tone, noting that they’ve reached their goal of advancing to the knockout rounds of the World Cup.

“In this game, you can’t question that we didn’t want to win the game, you can’t question that we weren’t working as hard as we possibly could,” Horan said. “We know that things could have been better, we know that we could have done more, we know that we could’ve scored opportunities.”