Striking Carli Lloyd's Olympic goal by proxy in Marlton

At Champps sports bar in Marlton, (from left) the Universal Soccer Academy's Mario Giunchiglia, John Johnson, and James Galanis react as Carli Lloyd scores her second goal.
At Champps sports bar in Marlton, (from left) the Universal Soccer Academy's Mario Giunchiglia, John Johnson, and James Galanis react as Carli Lloyd scores her second goal. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 10, 2012

Literally five minutes - maybe seven - after the Olympic gold medal women's soccer game ended in London, its star, Carli Lloyd, scorer of both U.S. goals, made a phone call.

She called her trainer for the last 10 years, James Galanis, who had been watching the contest Thursday in a sports bar in Marlton with youth soccer players and parents.

"This is her on the phone right now," he said as he answered.

"Can you hear me?" he said. "What's going on? What time's the game on?"

Pause. She's thinking he's serious.

"I thought it was on at 4:45?"

She realizes that he's joking.

"What did I tell you?" he said. "I told you.

"Feel good?"

Delran native Lloyd had been a bench player in the first game of these Olympics. But Galanis had told her to be patient, that she would get her chance, become a starter, a key player, and it would feel all the better. And now she was telling him it was scary how right he was, and how much better it all tasted.

"Yep," he said. "Well, I'm very proud of you. You know that. We're all here at Champps. And everyone's screaming. You stole the show, like the plan was all along. You stole the show and you shined brighter than everyone else. You killed it."

She told him it got a bit too close at the end.

"Make sure you give Hope a big hug," he said, referring to goalie Hope Solo, who stopped a Japanese breakaway with five minutes to go to preserve the 2-1 U.S. victory.

"Go get your medal," he said, "and call me back later."

She got her medal. He sat in the bar and watched.

Galanis had organized the viewing party. Dozens of young girls came, wearing the uniform of their travel team, the Medford Strikers, or Universal Soccer Academy T-shirts. Galanis is the academy's owner and director of soccer operations, and many of the Strikers attend his clinics.

The game took on a special sense for these girls because they know Lloyd. The center midfielder has trained with them, teased them, risen through the same program they are in now. Her reality is the stuff of their dreams.

"She makes me feel like I could be an Olympic gold medalist one day," said Olivia Goldberg, 12, who plays on the U-13 Medford Strikers. Lloyd was once a U-13 Medford Striker.

Galanis' favorite Carli Lloyd story is the time she took a red-eye flight home from Los Angeles, came straight from the airport to his practice field, dug her spikes out of her bag, and got to work. "Here's a world-class athlete who has achieved so much," he said, "but still trains like she's achieved nothing."

He said her greatest strength is her ability to attack and "create opportunities consistently and out of nothing."

The game began.

A few early runs by the American team, a few gasps from the girls, but at seven minutes in, nothing yet.

Suddenly, from the left corner of the field at Wembley Stadium, U.S. forward Alex Morgan crossed the ball from the left side, and Lloyd came streaking out of nowhere and headed the ball into the goal. The sports bar erupted in 12-year-old squeals.

Allison Bicking, 12, a goalie for the Strikers, said after she caught her breath: "Carli, when she's on the field, she's the game-changer."

Then she took a little credit for the U.S. lead. "I was in goal when she was practicing her headers," Allison said. "I helped with that."

A moment after the goal, a text arrived on Galanis' BlackBerry. It was from Ryan Finley of Lumberton, back at the University of Notre Dame for preseason workouts. Finley practiced much of the summer with Lloyd, and Galanis had them work endlessly on head balls.

"All those headers," Finley texted.

"Yes!" replied Galanis. He also noted that Lloyd had been playing a defensive midfield position for the U.S. team in the Olympic Games previously, but Thursday was moved into an attacking midfield position - and surely came through early with her header.

Around the 53-minute mark, the bar was quiet; Japan seemed to be controlling the game. Lloyd got the ball at midfield. One voice called out, "Come on, Carli." She weaved through other players and blasted a bullet with her right foot, to the far post, and in it went, almost too amazing to be true.

The bar erupted, everyone's hands went up in unison, as if to signal a touchdown. This was ground zero of Carli Lloyd fever, and the fans loved it. They watched the replay and loved it again. And again. Several Medford Strikers and parents went over to Galanis and gave him high fives.

At the 81st minute, Lloyd launched another bullet with her left foot, but it went just wide. The bar groaned collectively.

Japan stole the ball and got a breakaway with five minutes left, but Solo made her amazing save and Champps turned into Cheers.

Then Abby Wambach got a yellow card in the 89th minute. Jerry D'Apolito said to his daughter, Tatum: "Are you kidding?"

Two minutes of extra time. Two minutes till gold.

A small chant in the bar with 45 seconds to go: "Carli, Carli, Carli. . . ."

The whistle. The game's end. Hugs. Cheers. Chants in the bar.

Fellow coaches and parents bear hugged Galanis, one after another.

The girls would go home thrilled and elated.

And Galanis got his phone call.


Contact Michael Vitez at 215-854-5639 or mvitez@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @michaelvitez.

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