Carli Lloyd says the time she's taken to recover from a minor knee injury has been a blessing in disguise because it helped her to slow down and reflect after a wild year.
"Honestly, it's been the best 10 weeks I think I've had in a long time. I've been able to rest my mind, rest my body, rejuvenate myself. I'm more rejuvenated than I can even remember," she said. "I've gotten to spend time with my fiancé and my friends and be in my house. It's honestly been one of the best things that could have happened."
Lloyd scored a hat trick in less than 16 minutes in the Women's World Cup title game victory over Japan nearly a year ago. The 5-2 win gave the U.S. national team its third overall title in the game's most prestigious tournament, and made Lloyd a household name.
In the aftermath, she not only played in the team's victory tour, but she was showered with sponsorship deals and appearance requests. She was named the FIFA Women's Player of the Year, the sports highest honor.
And to top it off, she's also wrote a memoir, "When Nobody Was Watching" due to come out in September.
"This time last year, no one could have predicted this," she said. "It's still going."
But much of the chaos came to a screeching halt in April, when she sprained her right knee in a game with her National Women's Soccer League team, the Houston Dash. The Grade 1 MCL sprain was expected to take three to six weeks to heal.
Lloyd did not rush her return because of what's looming this August: the Olympics in Brazil. She needs to be fully healed as the United States goes for its fourth straight gold medal.
The New Jersey native has been key to the last two Olympic efforts. She scored the winning goal in the gold-medal match in Beijing and London.
And, truth be told, Lloyd needed the break. The injury, while unfortunate, came at a good time, far enough out from the Olympics that she could still be back in time.
"Honestly, if I had kept going, at that pace — when I do things I do them 100 percent, whether it's on the field or a commercial shoot, appearance, anything. I was completely fried," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Her coach and mentor James Galanis said he also sensed she was running on empty. He was going to suggest she take time off, but she had obligations with the Dash and the national team, as well as other appearances.
"Here was a completely drained out girl, and yeah, I was concerned," said Galanis, director of Universal Soccer Academy in New Jersey. "When she got injured, my immediate thinking was, 'I hope it's not serious.' Then it was, 'If it's not serious that's great, she's going to have to take a break whether she likes it or not."'
Lloyd is rejoining the national team on Friday for training in advance of the U.S. team's match on July 9 against South Africa at Chicago's Soldier Field. The team will also play on July 22 against Costa Rica in Kansas City, Kansas, before leaving for Brazil.
"I'm pretty much 100 percent. I would say about 95 percent," she said. "I'm basically doing everything: cutting, springing, running, shooting. I've been jumping in with some of James' teams and playing with the kids. So, nearly there. I should be good to go."
That's where Galanis veers a bit from Lloyd. He thinks she looks stronger than she has for a long time.
"I think she's coming back a lot more mature, a lot more wiser. And her condition — I haven't seen her as explosive as she is right now. She looks so powerful," he said. "And it's really because of this forced break that she had, it brought her back."