Jill Ellis and Carli Lloyd may not be joined at the hip, but they deserve to win the FIFA prizes they’ve both been nominated for this year. Together, the coach of the U.S. women’s national soccer team and the star midfielder for the Americans during the 2015 Women’s World Cup victory found a way to push the U.S. to greatness at exactly the right time.
Ellis, a finalist for the FIFA Women’s World Coach of the Year, is up against England’s Mark Sampson and Japan coach Norio Sasaki. If Ellis wins, it will be in recognition of the second-year coach taking a talented but faltering offensive U.S. side to their first Women’s World Cup title in 16 years.
For Lloyd, it seems almost a shoo-in that the New Jersey native will be named the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. The 33-year-old veteran solidified her place in soccer history by scoring a hat trick in the first 16 minutes of the Women’s World Cup final in the 5-2 win over defending champion Japan.
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Along with Lloyd, Aya Miyama of Japan and Germany’s Celia Sasic are also finalists for the players award. Miyama is a great field marshall for Japan, but was not a dominant player. Sasic, a fantastic striker, announced her retirement from the German national team shortly after her unforgettable missed penalty kick against the U.S. in the World Cup semifinal paved the way for a U.S. win.
While a case could be made for Sampson, whose England side made a surprising run all the way to the semifinals and took home the 2015 Women’s World Cup bronze, Sasaki figures to be of lesser consideration this year. With a Women’s World Cup title to defend, Sasaki had to reorganiz his tenacious and skilled Nadeshiko to attempt to repeat as World Cup champs.
But this is where Lloyd and Ellis may have sealed their fates as the best in the business in 2015. After Ellis unleashed Lloyd against China in the quarterfinals, and doubled down with Lloyd on the attack in the semifinal win over Germany, it was against Japan where Lloyd proved again to be one of the best clutch players in women’s soccer history. Instead of assigning a Japan defender to mark Lloyd, Sasaki stuck with his usual formation and could only watch as Lloyd brutalized Japan in the opening minutes of the final in Vancouver.
While it may have taken a yellow-card suspension against Lauren Holiday to prompt Ellis to finally move Lloyd up during the knockout rounds of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the U.S. coach and midfielder did not waste the opportunity. In a Women’s World Cup year that started off with a revamping U.S. side seen as vulnerable to top-rated Germany and No. 3-ranked France, Ellis and Lloyd restored order for the U.S. women’s national team.
The FIFA award winners will be announced in Zurich on January 11.