Mallori Lofton-Malachi played four years at the University of South Florida before having a successful career in Europe. Mallori was easily one of the most athletic goalkeepers in the USWNT pool, displaying an unreal amount of explosiveness in her spring. Now retired at the age of twenty-seven, Mallori talks about her time overseas, her concussion, and where she is now.
How early did you start playing goalkeeper? And when did you figure out you wanted to play in college?
I started playing goalkeeper when I was 13 years old. The starting goalkeeper on our team got hurt and I decided to step in. The rest is history. I ALWAYS knew I wanted to play college soccer. It was just one of those things that in my mind I knew I was going to achieve.
You played four years with South Florida, setting multiple records during your tenure. What stands out about your time at USF?
The thing that stands out most about my time at USF is the friends that I made. Yeah, there are definitely certain games that stand out in my mind (beating UConn my senior year on senior day) but the most valuable thing that I got from going to USF are my life long friends. Going to USF was one of the best decisions I've ever made. The school was amazing, the coaching staff (Denise, Chris and Mendoza) was super supportive, and I met teammates that have turned into my best friends.
Was playing professionally the goal from the start?
I always wanted to play professionally. A lot of women talk about seeing the '99 World Cup and being inspired by them, but I remember watching the '96 Olympics and seeing Briana Scurry play. I thought to myself, "I'm gonna do that one day." My Dad passed away my sophomore year of college. At that point, I was overweight and out of shape. I sat down with Denise, Chris and Mendoza, and they told me that I could definitely play soccer professionally, but that I would have to start taking my fitness and training more seriously. I completely changed the way I went about playing that season, and I'll be forever grateful to the three of them for pushing me and showing me that i could achieve that goal.
You played in Iceland, Finland, and then finally in Germany with SC Sand. What was the motivation that moved you from club to club?
To play in the best league in the world. I saw that there weren't a lot of opportunities to play in the US so I decided to play in the top leagues overseas.
There are a number of American goalkeepers playing in the Nordic countries. What about the area draws players from America to play there?
Definitely the opportunity to actually play. When I played in Atlanta I was sitting behind Hope [Solo] and another goalkeeper who had more experience than I did. I was also only making $442 every two weeks in Atlanta. I got an offer to play in Iceland where I would not only be the starting goalkeeper, but I'd be making much more money. It was an easy choice.
How does American soccer compare to German?
The major difference between American and German soccer is the speed of play. We play a faster game in the US, whereas in Germany it's slower. I'd say that we have a lot more athletes that play soccer in the US. It makes us more dynamic players. In Germany, players usually only play one sport while growing up so they aren't as dynamic soccer players as Americans are.
What’s it like being an American representative to so many people overseas? Are there common questions you’re asked?
Guns. People always want to know how many guns I own. They also ask me why President Obama is spying on other countries, as if President Obama and I are best friends.
How did you think the USWNT performed during the World Cup? Is there anything you’d like to see improved upon over the next cycle?
I was very happy to see them finally win the World Cup. They found a way to win in the group stage and completely outplayed Japan in the final. My biggest criticism for the USWNT is what I perceive to be a major lack of player development. You have great players retiring because, one, they can no longer afford to struggle financially and, two, they feel as though there are no opportunities for growth in women's soccer. I feel that the USWNT needs to do scouting overseas, and they'll see that there are A LOT of talented women players that have been overlooked. I've played with Katie Fraine and I think she's a good goalkeeper. I would honestly love to see ANYBODY my age at least get a call up.
Going back to your time in Germany, talk about your concussion. How did it happen? How were you dealt with?
It happened on December 6, 2014. We were playing against Jena, a German team. I came out for a 1v1. I had possession of the ball, and instead of jumping over me the forward kneed me in the back of my head. (I only know that happened to me because I saw the video a couple of days afterwards.) I woke up 30 minutes later in an ambulance with two EMT's.
My concussion wasn't handled properly, which is why I decided to leave Germany and come back home to Philadelphia. The thing that stands out the most for me is that I was at the hospital by myself. There were four coaches at the game that day, and they did not check on me until halftime, when my teammates forced one of our assistant coaches to go to the hospital. I felt very alone and unsupported.
Why do you think the coaches at Sand weren't extremely helpful with the concussion? Was it more ignorance of your injury or lack of awareness of how dangerous concussions are?
I think that is was a lack of awareness of how dangerous concussions are. Although, It shouldn't matter what the injury was. You always send someone to the hospital so that the player isn't alone. Especially, if they aren't from that country and German is their second language. That's just common sense.
So what are your plans now with soccer? And what’s your injury status?
I'm retired from playing professional soccer. My plan was to come back to the U.S. after last season and join a NWSL team, but the concussion happened and changed everything. I've been told by my doctor that it would be in my best interest not to play again. I'm feeling much better today than I was three months ago. At that time I was experiencing every post concussion symptom. I still have the daily headaches and ringing of the ears, but my sensitivity to light and sound is much better. I continue to receive treatment at my local TBI clinic each week to try and eliminate all of my symptoms.
I played soccer for 20 years and it was a GREAT 20 years. I'll always love soccer, but my main focus right now is to recover from the concussion. I'm very interested in real estate. Possibly buying and flipping houses. We'll see, I still have time to figure it out.
Last question, who would you say is the best player you have ever played with?
This is a tough one. Tina Ellertson. She's the most athletic soccer player I've ever played with. Her recovery speed was unlike anything I've ever seen. She also had a great work ethic and is a really nice person.