Carli Lloyd - US women's national team (USWNT) - celebration

"Losing is a disease, as contagious as polio. Losing is a disease as contagious as syphilis. Losing is a disease as contagious as bubonic plague, attacking one but infecting all.”
So drones the sports psychologist in the iconic scene from “The Natural,” a baseball movie that touches on a great many timeless sporting ideas. And so it can go in reverse, as the US women's national team have been proving for about two years now.

The USWNT have forged a deep, dogged allergy to losing soccer matches, and they don't tie them particularly often, either. The Yanks are 45-3-7 since this time two years ago, and on Saturday night against France, they yet again managed to take all three points from an occasion on which they were markedly outpaced and outmaneuvered. (WATCH FULL HIGHLIGHTS HERE)

It's probably fitting, and certainly not coincidental, that the captain and star of the team epitomizes this ephemeral, admirable trait.


Many longtime watchers of the women's game would categorize Carli Lloyd as a holdover from a rapidly-receding era when stamina, strength and intensity were enough to overpower opponents more often than not. Even though she played it for most of her early USWNT years, she's not entirely comfortable in a two-way, “No. 8” midfield role, especially not against a team as technical and organized as France.


Lloyd has excellent attacking instincts. But her passing isn't as surgical as her younger teammate Morgan Brian or French cornerstone Amandine Henry, and she's generally not been reliable at fulfilling important defensive responsibilities.


But the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year has reached her current great heights by working relentlessly to build on her strengths (movement, finishing, pressing in advanced areas), while coach Jill Ellis wisely helped disguise her weak points by pushing her into a free-ranging attacking role that's attacking mid on the lineup sheet, but second striker in reality (think Jermaine Jones with the Colorado Rapids or Frank Lampard at NYCFC).

Lloyd sniffed out the winner on Saturday because, in short, she's seen it all before, over and over, and understands innately how and when to make maximum impact. She's now played 226 USWNT matches, and scored 90 times, including 10 goals in Olympic play. And when opposing teams aren't efficient in front of the US goal, no matter how good they are in other facets of the game, they leave the door open for the relentless Jersey kid to punish their wastefulness.


It's like betting against the house at the Atlantic City casinos an hour or so south of Lloyd's hometown.


Les Bleues seized control of this affair from the outset, bossing the first half in every respect and making the USWNT chase and drop deep – a highly unfamiliar sensation for the reigning world champs. It appeared to be just a matter of time before France found the net, with Hope Solo repeatedly scrambling to maintain the scoreless deadlock.


Towering center back Wendie Renard's header rang the crossbar, helped by the slightest touch from Solo's fingertips. Marie-Laure Delie, working up top in place of the injured Eugenie Le Sommer, tried and failed to beat Solo from 10 yards out. Later, Solo would get down quickly to parry a Delie's dangerous downward header. With left back Meghan Klingenberg repeatedly targeted and the ironclad center-back partnership of Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston broken up by a heretofore unreported groin problem for the latter, a usually unflappable US defense was laid bare.


But all of France's hard work in the defensive and middle thirds was never fairly rewarded in the attacking one. And Solo – whose polarizing personality distracts too many fans from her truly staggering shotstopping wizardry – saved everything that was directed on frame (five in all). Perhaps Le Sommer would've done better, but she herself has been prone to past misfires vs. the US.


The breakthrough never came, and the hump that France has failed to surmount in this matchup remained in place.


Because it's going to take more than threats to crack that American mentality, forged in four gold-medal runs and a World Cup title. Megan Rapinoe said before this match that the USWNT respect the French, but they've yet to be given sufficient reason to fear them – nor will they doubt their ability to overcome anyone else who stands in their way in this tournament.


France, meanwhile, who are now 1-17-2 all-time against the US, remain afflicted and annoyed, just like Robert Redford and the rest of those slump-ridden New York Knights.


Most likely these two teams will advance into opposite sides of the knockout bracket, so a rematch in the final may yet give them another opportunity to show that they're ready to ascend into the winner's circle.