Back on the soccer field

Courtesy of Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd is back from a shoulder injury and has joined her Western New York Flash teammates on the field -- and on team outings like this one, to a meat-packing plant owned by Flash owner Joe Sahlen.

I'm finally back! After being out with a shoulder injury for the first month of the season with the National Women's Soccer League, I got my eight-week X-ray on May 7 and my last physical therapy evaluation on May 8. My X-ray and my strength all looked good, so my doctor gave me the green light to join my team, the Western New York Flash.

I had been waiting for this day, so when it arrived, I was ready. Throughout my recovery process I was allowed to train, but not allowed to do any contact drills. So my workload consisted of a lot of physical power exercises but no soccer games.

As soon as I was cleared for contact I had to test the shoulder in a game. So I hopped in to an Under-18 youth training session with my former club, the Medford Strikers, and logged 30 minutes of full-sided soccer against enthusiastic boys. Although I kept it simple during the game, my shoulder didn't feel uncomfortable at all, and knew I was ready and had handled my injury the right way.

At 9 a.m. the day after my PT evaluation, I started my six-and-a-half-hour journey up to Buffalo. The long drive was occupied with thoughts about my performance and how I could help my new team. I was also thinking about all of the good things that can come out of playing in the NWSL. It really felt like a new journey was starting for me.

Mark Novak

Back in action! After eight weeks of rehab, Carli Lloyd played her first game with the Flash on May 11.

As soon as I arrived in Buffalo I was greeted by the great staff at WNY Flash. Everyone at the Flash organization made the move go extremely smoothly for me. Before I knew it, I had moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the same complex as many of my new teammates.

I got settled in, made a few trips to Walmart and Wegmans to get essentials and then got my head into team mode.

My first session with the team went very well. I felt comfortable with the coaches and players, and the girls were super-welcoming and nice, which made my transition really easy. I got a good sense of the game plan for our upcoming match against Kansas City, and was ready for whatever minutes I would get. I wanted to see the field but knew it was up to the coach.

We played really well against Kansas City in a 2-1 victory. Abby Wambach scored two great goals and our team came ready to play. We executed the game plan, and it was exciting to watch my teammates from the sideline. When Coach Aaran called me up, I played about 25 minutes and felt great! I felt connected with my teammates. We have a lot of really good technical players who understand the simplicity of the game, which makes it easier for me to come in and link up with them.

It can be a tough situation to miss out on a month of the season when everyone is getting to know one another and form special bonds on and off the field, but all the girls and the coaching staff have made it enjoyable. I also know a good number of the girls from previous teams, which has made things easier.

We've had some team outings, too, which have helped me to get to know everyone. Joe Sahlen is our owner and also the owner of Sahlen Packing Company, which is headquartered in Buffalo. Joe wanted the team to see how everything operated and what went into making the plant successful, so we went for a visit on Tuesday. We even saw how hot dogs and ham were made! It was very interesting -- and I enjoyed it a lot.

Now we're coming off a bye weekend and will be entering a very busy couple of months. It is important for us to take it one game at a time. Our goal is to win the NWSL championship, and I will do whatever it takes to help my team accomplish that. I still have a lot to prove and I'm up for the challenge.

We're back in action against Chicago on Friday night, and then on Sunday I'll travel up to Toronto to meet up with the Women's National Team for a game against Canada on June 2. I'm so excited to be back on the field!