Abby Wambach: The moments that make up a stellar career
ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 17, 2015 04:58 PM
U.S. forward Abby Wambach reacts during a practice session Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in New Orleans for Wednesday's final U.S. victory tour match, against China. Wambach played her final match with the team. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
ANNE M. PETERSON
AP Sports Writer
Abby Wambach made her debut with the U.S. national team in 2001 at the age of 21.
One-hundred and eighty-five goals later, Wambach played her final match with the national team in a 1-0 loss to China in New Orleans on Wednesday night. Now 35, she has scored more goals than anyone — male or female — in international matches.
Seventy-seven of those goals came from headers.
She has appeared in 256 matches for the United States over the 14-year span of her career. This summer she played for the U.S. team that won the World Cup.
A look at some of the biggest moments of her career:
WORLD CUP DEBUT: Wambach played in her first World Cup in 2003, when the SARS outbreak in China brought the tournament to the United States. She scored in the Americans' 1-0 victory over Norway in the quarterfinals, but the United States would ultimately fall to Germany in the semifinals and claim third place.
GOING FOR THE GOLD: At the Olympics in Athens, Wambach scored the overtime game-winner against Brazil in the gold medal match. It was a header (naturally) off a corner kick from Kristine Lilly. Wambach scored four goals in the tournament, something no other American had done before in an Olympics.
But she didn't just get a medal. Wambach had 31 goals and 13 assists in 30 matches for the national team, earning her U.S. player of the year honors. She went on to win the award five more times.
USING HER HEAD: Wambach's most famous goal came against Brazil in the quarterfinals at the 2011 World Cup. It was a header off a cross from Megan Rapinoe in the 122nd minute, tying the match at 2-all. The Americans would defeat Brazil on penalty kicks, but fall on PKs to Japan in the title match.
FIFA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Wambach won the game's highest honor in January 2013 when she was named the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year. She was the first American to win the award since Mia Hamm won in 2001 and 2002.
She edged Brazilian Marta and teammate Alex Morgan for the honor after scoring five goals in the 2012 London Games.
THE RECORD: Wambach broke Mia Hamm's record for international career goals by a soccer player in New Jersey during an exhibition against South Korea on June 20, 2013.
Wambach scored four times in the first half to push her total to 160, besting Hamm's total of 158. And, again, the record-breaker was a header off a corner from Rapinoe.
"I'm just so proud of her," Hamm told The Associated Press afterward. "Just watching those four goals, that's what she is all about. She fights for the ball, she's courageous and she never gives up. Her strength and perseverance is what makes her so great and it's what defenders and opposing teams fear."
WORLD CUP WIN: Wambach saw her role with the U.S. team change this summer during the Women's World Cup, coming off the bench as a sub in a number of games. Heading into the tournament, she said it would be her last — but she wanted nothing more than to step away with the sport's biggest trophy.
She got her wish. The United State defeated Japan 5-2 in the final.
"I would give up all my individual awards for what we just did tonight and it's the truth," she said in the moments afterward. "It's the wholehearted truth."
CHAMPIONING WOMEN'S RIGHTS: Wambach was the most vocal of a group of players who protested playing the World Cup in Canada on artificial turf.
The players claimed that staging the tournament on artificial turf — widely considered an inferior surface by elite players — amounted to gender discrimination because the men's World Cup has always been held on real grass.
Celebrities including Tom Hanks and Kobe Bryant got behind the cause, and the players even filed a legal claim in Canada. It was eventually dropped so the players could prepare for the World Cup, but the point had been made.