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Carli Lloyd joins Manchester City, impact on Houston Dash

Carli Lloyd taking on the Boston Breakers. Credit: Ray Escamilla

Earlier today, Manchester City Women confirmed the signing of Houston Dash and United States Women’s National Team midfielder Carli Lloyd. The move was first reported last Friday by Henry Winter of the Times.

Lloyd’s contract with Manchester City covers the Spring series, a shortened FA-WSL season that bridges the gap as the league transitions from a spring-to-autumn season to an autumn-to-spring season, the schedule most leagues in Europe follow.

The move will also afford Lloyd the opportunity to play in Champions League, with Manchester City having qualified for the quarter-finals where they will face Fortuna Hjørring on March 23rd and March 30th.

As a result of the move, Lloyd will miss the preseason as well as the first two months of the regular season with the Houston Dash this year. Dash officials have indicated that she plans to return to Houston after the conclusion of the Spring season, something she herself has confirmed on Twitter.

While the final weekend of the FA-WSL Spring series is June 3rd and 4th, NWSL officials have confirmed that Lloyd will not be able to join the Dash until the league’s secondary transfer window opens.

For 2016, the secondary transfer window was originally scheduled for July 4th to August 3rd. However, it was later moved up, with FIFA approval, to run from June 15th to July 14th.

The dates for the 2017 secondary transfer window have not yet been finalized, however league officials indicate that it will be similar, though not identical, to the updated secondary transfer window from last season.

The NWSL schedule has not been released as of yet, however indications are that Lloyd will miss a minimum of eight games.

If she played in the remaining sixteen games this season, that would nearly equal the combined number of matches (nineteen) that she has played in during her first two seasons with the team.

Lloyd is not contractually obligated to return to the team, and progress on the USWNT CBA negotiations could yet impact whether or when she in fact returns. However, for now the Dash could yet have more of Lloyd than they ever have before.

Timing and impact of the move

The move came as a surprise to the Dash, with team officials learning about it for the first time when it broke on Twitter on Friday morning.

By all accounts it came together quite quickly. At the time that the news first broke, Lloyd had not actually signed an agreement. Reportedly, a contract was offered over the weekend, and Lloyd headed to England where she was unveiled today.

According to Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald, Lloyd had other offers including a big money move to China which she turned down as it would have meant missing the entire NWSL season.

The news comes just less than a month before the start of the NWSL preseason, one in which Lloyd was likely to play upfront centrally as a false nine.

The Dash had success over the final stretch of the season with Lloyd in that role, flanked by Kealia Ohai and Janine Beckie out wide. Her departure could force a shift in tactics heading into the season. Alternatively, the Dash might deploy Rachel Daly in the same role.

Daly stands to miss time this season as England prepares for the Euros this summer. However, the overall timing could work quite well with Daly a relatively consistent presence in the early part then missing more time just as Lloyd shows up.

Janine Beckie could also step in a false nine role, although that would open a hole on the wing.

Third round draft pick Nichelle Prince is a different kind of an option as a center forward. However, the Dash are unlikely to want to put her out as a starter so soon in her professional career.

Ultimately, the biggest loss for the Dash may be in the area of leadership. The lack of senior, experienced leadership was an issue for the team last year.

While Lloyd, by her own admission, is not a “rah-rah” kind of a leader, she commands respect and leads by example.

There is no denying her passion for the game and work rate. When in training with the Dash, she is typically the last player off the training ground. For younger players, seeing the two time FIFA Women’s Player of the Year winner continue to train after practice has already ended sends a clear message on what it takes to succeed.

The Dash have taken steps to try and plug the leadership void this year by bringing in veterans like Bruna and Janine Van Wyk. However, Bruna does not speak English and it is a big ask of a player to come to a new country, a new league and a new team and immediately be a locker room presence.

As such, the ability of the team to pull itself up should it struggle in the early part of the season will be something to keep an eye on, especially after last season’s six match 1-0 losing streak which effectively ended the Dash’s season.

The second issue will be where goals come from. As good as she is, it would be unrealistic to expect Kealia Ohai to score goals at the same rate she did over the second half of the season last year. Particularly given Lloyd’s role in freeing up space for many of those goals by virtue of the defensive attention she attracts.

Somebody else (preferably more than one player), will have to provide goals on a consistent basis. Otherwise, the early part of the season could be a challenge, especially as a defense, that once again is going through big changes, jells.

A twenty-four match season means the Dash cannot win or lose it in just eight matches. However, they can either put themselves in a position of strength or create a hole to dig out from. Therefore, figuring out how to fill the void Lloyd leaves and how to produce goals consistently during the preseason will be critical.

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