Friday, June 21, 2013

Abby Wambach Breaks Mia Hamm's Goal Record

Abby Wambach became the world’s most prolific goal scorer in soccer history
(Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images).

Abby Wambach Breaks Mia Hamm's Mark With 4 Goals
(By Tom Canavan, Associated Press, 20 June 2013)

Move over Mia Hamm. Abby Wambach is now the greatest goal scorer in international soccer.  Wambach scored four times in the first half to break Hamm's record for international career goals with room to spare in a 5-0 victory over South Korea on Thursday night.  The four goals gave the 33-year-old Wambach 160 in207 games, two more than Hamm had in a storied 275-game career that ended in 2004.  Wambach connected three times in the first 29 minutes to break Hamm's mark of 158 international goals, and she added another in injury time to give her a nice round number.  Ali Daie of Iran holds the men's record with 109.  "I can't say how much I look up to Mia and how amazing the record she set was," said Wambach, who was doused with a bucket of water after the game. 

After crediting her teammates for her scoring prowess, Wambach said it was a night she will treasure.  "It was a special night," said a soaking wet Wambach. "It was surreal when it was happening. I felt when I missed the breakaway (after the first goal), hey maybe it's not going to happen. But my teammates were relentless putting me in those positions, and it's obvious."  The historic 159th came on a line-drive header that ripped into the twine in the back of the net off a corner kick by Megan Rapinoe.  "I'm just so proud of her," Hamm said. "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.  From being her teammate early in her career, I know all she ever wanted to do was win, and she continues to do that. I'm just glad I got to share 158 with her. It was short, but it was fun."

After the record-setting goal, Wambach turned and ran a couple of steps in the direction of the U.S. bench, then stopped as Rapinoe jumped into her arms. The Rochester, N.Y., native was then mobbed by teammates on the field and those who streamed off the bench as the crowd of 18,961 at Red Bull Arena cheered wildly.  After the hugs, Wambach turned to the stands and blew a kiss toward her parents, Judy and Peter.  "My teammates know me super well and at halftime they said: `You're such an extremist," Wambach said of getting the record. "You are all or nothing. When you want to do something, you just go do it. I am very much like my father in that way."  Other than "perfect ball" Rapinoe quipped, the only thing she said after the goal was "YESSSS!"  "I'm just so happy for her," Rapinoe said. "This was an amazing, amazing accomplishment in way less games, the way she has done it. It's incredible to be a part of it."

Chants of "Ab-bee, Ab-bee, Ab-bee," cascaded through the stadium as officials got the ball and gave it to the U.S. bench.  The four goals in the friendly were the second most by Wambach in an international game, and will allow the spotlight that has followed her in her chase of Hamm's record to finally dissolve.  Her first goal Thursday came on a shot in the box past South Korean goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi in the 10th minute. The second came nine minutes later in the friendly on a flicking header.  Lauren Cheney set up the first two goals on crossing passes on plays that Wambach eluded Korean defender Shim Seo-yeon.  Wambach's fourth goal was an easy tap-in after Alex Morgan made a run down the right side and centered the ball to the on-rushing Wambach, the 2012 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year.

Wambach, who was stopped on a first-half breakaway shortly after her first goal, had a chance for a fifth goal, which would have tied her single-game record, but she could not get her head on a cross early in the second half.  "She had her mind set," U.S. captain Christie Rampone said. "She wanted to do it tonight and you could see it. Three goals in less than 30 minutes, an amazing performance by her. It was the best of both worlds, she got to score four goals and then watch the rest of the game and enjoy the day."  Wambach was given a standing ovation by many in the crowd when she was replaced in the 58th minute by Christen Press. Before leaving the field, she exchanged hugs with long-time teammates Rapinoe, Heather O'Reilly and Carli Lloyd and a few other players. As she got to the sideline she applauded the crowd and then hugged her coaches and teammates. The crowd chanted "Abby Wambach" in return.

"It's fantastic, a fairy-tale night," US coach Tom Sermanni said. "She could not have done it any better, just fantastic. She is a great professional . She is in great shape and she was really determined tonight to go out there and break that record, and she did it in great style."  Cheney added the final goal for the United States on a header in the 64th minute.  Goalkeeper Hope Solo made her first start for the United States since having wrist surgery in early March. She faced one weak shot as the ball stayed in the South Korean half most of the game.

Legacies Of Wambach, Hamm, Morgan Intertwine- Just As They’d Like Them To
(By Jeff Kassouf, NBC Sportstalk, June 21, 2013)

The mark of many great goal scorers is the ability to be selfish in front of the goal.  Three of the best United States forwards ever must have missed that memo.  On Thursday at Red Bull Arena, Abby Wambach smashed Mia Hamm’s international goal scoring record. Wambach entered the game needing two goals to tie the record of 158 goals; she had those within 19 minutes. By halftime she was alone at the top and two clear with 160 goals.  Wambach now owns the greatest individual record in all of soccer – men’s or women’s. She said she would celebrate her record with family and friends on Thursday night, but the significance of Hamm’s name — one synonymous with women’s soccer to this day — bumping down to second on the charts isn’t lost on Wambach.  “If I were to end my career right now, I would have done it before breaking (the record),” Wambach said. “That’s how much respect I have for Mia – how much she’s done for me personally, how much she’s doing even for Alex Morgan, still. This is a personal thing. Mia wants players to break her records. I now want Alex to break mine and I just told Alex, ‘you better do it in much less time than I did.’”
Such is the relationship of three of the most prolific scorers in the history of soccer. Wambach and Hamm are atop the charts, while Morgan’s 44 goals in 68 caps (and at 24 years old) has her on a blistering pace to join the fray. But their ambitions always lie in seeing their apprentice succeed them. Hamm did it for Wambach, guiding the 5-foot-11-inch forward through her early professional years with the U.S. and the Washington Freedom and shaping Wambach’s raw talent into a more determined, more focused player.   “I’m just glad I got to share 158 with her. It was short, but it was fun,” Hamm said humbly in a statement issued through U.S. Soccer.
That’s it. No grievances. No ego. That’s Hamm’s nature. It’s Wambach’s too, and now she plays role model to Morgan. Their goals are to create each others goals.  Just as Hamm and Wambach became a dynamic duo in the three-plus years they played together in the early 2000′s, Wambach and Morgan have become inseparable on the field. Morgan’s assist on Wambach’s fourth goal Thursday was her 13th on a Wambach goal (Hamm assisted 14).  But the connection goes well beyond pinging crosses to each other. Find Abby Wambach in warm-ups and you’ll find Alex Morgan. Passing together. Stretching together. Even sitting next to each other on the bench after being taken out of the match (a 5-0 rout) early in the second half.  It’s a connection that breeds sustainable success as the U.S. ushers in the next generation.  Postgame on Thursday, Morgan was beaming as if she just scored goal No. 160.  “I’ve looked up to Abby for so many years,” Morgan said. “She’s a great leader for this team, and to be able to be a part of this memory looking forward and breaking this record, Abby completely deserves it and I’m really happy for her.”

The relationship is triangular. Hamm helped Morgan train in the offseason to sharpen her skills through the dormant winter. Wambach said she was likely to speak with Hamm following Thursday night’s interviews.  Three greats at what can be the most selfish position in soccer, as unselfish as they come when it comes to each other. That they emerged for the United States in succession without any lapse in between is an unprecedented gift from the soccer gods. Greatness followed greatness, and Morgan is well ready to take the torch and sprint away with it.  “Alex is going to score tons of goals in the next few years,” Wambach said. “I think we have such a different kind of strength. When I’m having a great game, she’s probably going to be on the assisting end of things. But I want to be putting her in the positions to score goals, because my legs can’t move like hers. She can score goals in such random positions, like the Canada game.  “She’s going to be a threat for us. She’s going to be scoring the lion share of goals for our team over the next couple years, so if my role becomes assister, great. If I’m the set piece threat, fine. Whatever my role is to help this team win a World Cup title, that’s all I care about.”  That elusive World Cup – the only thing Hamm, and now Wambach, ever really cared about. Hamm won two.  Wambach gave Hamm the retirement gift of an Olympic gold medal. The best thank you Morgan could ever give Wambach is a World Cup trophy in 2015.

Wambach Exceeds All Expectations In Breaking Goals Record
(By Jeff Kassouf, NBC Sportstalk, June 20, 2013)

With history set as the backdrop, Abby Wambach exceeded even her own expectations.  The U.S. Soccer centennial banners lined the field at Red Bull Arena, celebrating 100 years of the federation’s existence. But 160 was the only number that would matter by night’s end.  Wambach had a hat trick inside 30 minutes and scored a fourth goal in first half stoppage time to reach 160 goals, breaking Mia Hamm’s previous world record of 158.  “My teammates know me super well,” she said. “At halftime they were like, ‘you are such an extremist. You are all or nothing. When you want to do something you just do it.’ I’m very much like my father in that way.”  Wambach credited her teammates for setting her up throughout the night – and throughout her career. Even on a night when the world’s attention focused on Wambach, the 5-foot-11-inch forward couldn’t help but try to pass off the spotlight.  “I really through and through believe it in my heart, I’m only as good as my teammates allow me to be,” Wambach said. “Yes, I score a lot of goals and yes I put myself in positions to score goals, but they do to. And I can’t thank my teammates enough.”

Her teammates, however wouldn’t allow the focus to be anywhere but firmly fixed on the No. 20 shirt in white.  “Honestly, we’re always looking for each other,” said Alex Morgan, who has now assisted 13 of Wambach’s 160 career goals. “Abby, after she scored three, she was like, ‘OK, can we please get it to you now? Can we pass it to you? Let’s go. We’re always looking for each other up top. Making runs for each other, so I think that we play well together; we play selflessly and it has shown in the success of the team.”  Goal No. 159, which gave Wambach sole possession of the record, came when she emphatically headed Megan Rapinoe’s corner kick into the net.  “She was on two at that point, so obviously it was going through my head. Just put something good – let her get up there and try to grab something,” Rapinoe said of her thought process on the corner kick.” 
Even given Wambach’s prowess, Rapinoe didn’t think the record was reachable pregame.  “I can’t even believe it,” Rapinoe said. “I didn’t think that she was going to have a hat trick tonight, to be honest.”  Now Wambach wants to move on from the hype and focus on getting ready for the 2015 World Cup- a trophy that continues to elude her. And her focus on the record isn’t about herself, it’s about helping Morgan break it “in much less time than I did.”


Abby Wambach Passes Mia Hamm's International Scoring Record
(The Guardian, 20 June 2013)

The USA beat South Korea 5-0 in a friendly in New Jersey, but the night was all about one particularly striking talent  When the ball was eventually retrieved from a reluctant Korean defender – one of the few people in the stadium not experiencing the joy of witnessing history – it was lobbed carefully to a US soccer official on the sidelines, for safekeeping. Abby Wambach's team-mates, who had erupted from the bench, settled back into their seats as the game resumed. Wambach was still grinning widely, though – in just 29 minutes she had scored the hat-trick that took her past Mia Hamm as sole holder of the world record for international goals.

Fittingly, the record-breaking goal came from her head. For all that Wambach has more finesse with her feet than she is sometimes credited for (witness her turn and neat finish to open the scoring here, after 10 minutes), she has the physical presence of a classic center forward and the highlight reel to match – few who saw it will forget her stoppage-time World Cup equalizer against Brazil, and few of the 18,961 who were here at Red Bull Arena will forget the sight of her powering to meet a Megan Rapinoe corner for goal No 159, to take her past Hamm's total.

We had been treated to screams 10 minutes earlier, when another diving header greeted Lauren Cheney's chipped cross from the byline to tie the record, but now as the stadium shook again, as her team-mates mobbed her and as her family wept in the VIP zone, Wambach was jogging back to the center circle, beaming to a reprise of the game announcer's boast: "Ladies and gentlemen, you have just witnessed soccer history."  Wambach wasn't done yet, either. With the clock ticking into stoppage time at the end of the first half she could not miss from point-blank range after Alex Morgan skipped clear down the right and unselfishly cut the ball across goal for her strike partner to bundle it home. Cue another round of mayhem from the crowd, exceeded only when Wambach was subbed out just before the hour, as the stadium reverberated with chants of her name.
Afterwards, Wambach laughed at the emphatic way in which the record was shattered:  “My team-mates know me super well and at half-time they were all like, 'You are such an extremist! You're all or nothing – when you want to do something you just go ahead and do it.' Second half I was telling them, "Please just shoot the ball yourself – take it yourself. Be selfish.”  Lauren Cheney did add a fifth goal as a multitude of substitutions robbed the game of its shape, but the 5-0 final scoreline was not the story. And certainly the first-half display was entirely about a team focused on helping Wambach past the milestone, as ball after ball came her way. Morgan's assist on the fourth goal might have been a presentable chance for the young striker, who has set a record-breaking pace herself in what will now become #chasingabby.  

Wambach was nothing if not grateful for the assistance, including that which came from the young woman who may eventually surpass her. She was also grateful to the woman who had set the mark she has been pursuing of late: “I can't say enough about how much I look up to Mia and how amazing the record that she set was. My team-mates have put me in all different types of positions to score goals, and I can't say it enough and I really and truly believe it in my heart – I'm only as good as my team-mates allow me to be … my team-mates were relentless in putting me in those positions … If I were to end my career right now I would have done it before breaking it [the record]. That's how much respect I have for Mia. How much she's done for me personally. How much she's doing for Alex Morgan still. This isn't a personal thing – Mia wants players to break her records. I now want Alex to break mine and I just told Alex, 'You better do it in much less time than I did!'
Hamm tweeted her congratulations during the game and by full-time she had sent a generous congratulatory note:  “I'm just so proud of her. 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 great and it's what defenders and opposing teams fear. From being her team-mate early in her career, I know all she ever wanted to do was win and she continues to do that. I'm just glad I got to share 158 with her. It was short, but it was fun.” 

Back at the Arena, as the crowd lingered long after the final whistle to applaud Wambach, the striker was already reflecting on a future support role, as attention now shifts to qualification for the World Cup in 2015 and her desire to extend her career at least that far: “Alex is going to score tons of goals in the next few years. I think we have such a different kind of strength. When I'm having a great game, she's probably going to be on the assisting end of things. But I want to be putting her in positions to score goals, because you know, my legs can't move like hers. And she can score goals from such random positions … she's going to be a threat for us. She's going to be scoring the lion's share of goals for us in the next couple of years. So if I become the assister, Great. If I Become The Set-Piece Threat, Fine. Whatever My Role Is To Help Win This Team Win A World Cup Title, that's all I care about.”  For this night though, the future could wait. The world record stands at 160 international goals and it belongs to Abby Wambach.

Wambach Breaks Mia Hamm's Record
(By Fox Sports, 21June 2013)

The torch has been passed.  Mia Hamm no longer holds the world record for international goals, whether by a woman or a man. On Thursday night, Abby Wambach scored four first-half goals in a friendly against a putrid South Korean side to push her career tally in international competition to 160, passing Hamm’s 158.  On a balmy night at Red Bull Arena, 18,961 fans – seemingly all shrieking girls whose collective squeal could rip an elephant’s ear drum – saw Wambach cushion a 10th minute Lauren Cheney cutback, hold off her defender, turn and slice her shot past Kim Jungmi from up close to make it 1-0.  Not a minute later, the 33-year-old Rochester native undertook a clear run on goal and galloped alone for some 30 yards and ripped her finish to the low left corner. Kim parried with a kick-save however. A 14th-minute whack from deep was deflected softly into Kim’s hands. But Wambach would not be denied.  Just five minutes later, another Cheney run to the back line culminated in a precise chip onto Wambach’s lethal forehead, with which she ably redirected the ball into the back of the net. That put her on equal footing with Hamm, who tweeted out her approval.

Click here for Abby Wambach's best momemts from her illustrious career.

This is fun @AbbyWambach! Get it done and enjoy your moment. We are watching with anticipation .

— Mia Hamm (@MiaHamm) June 21, 2013

Wambach had a full 70 minutes remaining to own the record outright. She wouldn’t need anywhere near that long.  In the 29th minute, it was Megan Rapinoe’s turn to facilitate Wambach’s history-making. She deposited her corner onto Wambach’s towering head, who snapped it into the twine a third time.  That’s when the pandemonium erupted. Wambach was instantly buried by her teammates. The American bench cleared. The ball was removed from the run of play, for safekeeping as an historic artifact. And Wambach, visibly moved by the moment, waved at her family in its luxury box.
The former record holder sent another tweet:  Congratulations @AbbyWambach. So proud of you, my friend. You are a warrior and true champion. Enjoy this.

— Mia Hamm (@MiaHamm) June 21, 2013

Before halftime had even been whistled, Wambach struck home another goal, as Alex Morgan flipped her the assist for an easy tap-in.  And so Wambach arrived at 160.  Strolling into the tunnel for halftime, she looked in no mood to slow up.  Indeed, she threw her head at every high ball near her in the second half, as she always had, as she probably will for as long as she plays. This was the very instinct that had made her the world’s most prolific goal scorer in international soccer history, and it wasn’t going to fade now.  But before she had a chance to score the 161st, she was substituted off to thunderous applause and cheers in the 58th minute. She handed her captain’s armband to Heather O’Reilly and exchanged hugs with her teammates.  As she sauntered off, the chant was clearly audible: Ab-by Wam-bach! Ab-by Wam-bach! Ab-by Wam-bach!

Relive USA's greatest moments through their 100 year history.
Wambach embraced every coach and teammate on the bench. And then she set off for her cooling-down jog. Because Wambach isn’t done yet.  Before the game was even over, Hamm, who had been watching from home, released a statement. “I’m just so proud of her,” she said. “From being her teammate early in her career, I know all she ever wanted to do was win and she continues to do that. I'm just glad I got to share 158 with her. It was short, but it was fun.”  With Wambach out of the game, the mood turned festive. The crowd got heavy into the Mexican Wave. The match was now merely the backdrop to one very special player’s very special night.

(By Fox Sports, June 2013)
Move over, Mia. Wambach made history to become soccer's all-time goal scoring record holder. And while those around her celebrated, Wambach sat at the end of the bench, rooting for her teammates to score more goals. They got one more, to make the final score 5-0. Cheney deservedly got to head in the last one.  After the game, Sydney Leroux and Meghan Klingenberg showered Wambach with the icy remainder of the team’s water cooler. And then the drenched star with the short haircut and frightfully blue eyes gripped her family tight.  “A fairytale night,” said head coach Tom Sermanni. “Couldn’t have done it any better. She was really determined tonight to go out and break that record and she did it in great style.”  Rapinoe, like many teammates, was somewhat overwhelmed by the occasion. “I can’t even believe it,” she said. “I didn’t think she was going to have a hat trick tonight, to be honest. Wow. But to do to it sort of close to home and with her family here – unbelievable.”

Congratulations @AbbyWambach, the greatest goal scorer in the history of women's soccer—you've made your country proud. #ChasingAbby  — Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 21, 2013

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