Thursday night, she was with the U.S. Women’s National Team relishing one of the defining moments of her career. Friday morning, she was on the set of Good Morning America. After a one-hour flight out of LaGuardia, the new all-time leading scorer in women’s soccer history was back with the Western New York Flash Friday afternoon.
At times both reflective – on soccer and life – and funny, Abby Wambach, who has now scored 160 international-game goals, spoke to a group of reporters at Sahlen’s Sports Park in Elma about passing Mia Hamm for the prestigious mark.
“It couldn’t have been more special,” Wambach said, with tired eyes and Gatorade in hand, a day after scoring four first-half goals in the United States’ 5-0 win over South Korea in New Jersey. “It was perfect. A fairy tale. My parents were down on the field after the game and my mom was crying. I just am so thankful that they were there to see it.
“Who knows what happens tomorrow? Who knows if I get injured? Who knows if I never step on the field for our national team again? So the fact that it’s happened, my parents were there to see it, a lot of my brothers and sisters were there to see it – those are the things that when the cameras are all turned off and my boots are hung up, those are the things that I’m going to carry with me the rest of my life.”
Wambach, 33, did not participate in Flash practice Friday – “It’s been a crazy whirlwind,” she said. “I haven’t really slept very much, so I’ve got to get some rest” – but will play in their game Sunday at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester against Seattle Reign FC, which features goalkeeper Hope Solo.
Wambach held true to her reputation for deflecting praise, saying things like “I can’t thank my teammates enough” and “I’ve only scored as many goals as I’ve scored because my teammates have put me in those positions.”
And her WNY teammates proved they love playing with her, once interrupting the news conference with cheers as they shouted, “Oh my God, it’s Abby Wambach!”
Wambach laughed and waved, “Hey, guys.”
As for passing the legendary Hamm, her mentor who scored 158 international goals? Wambach said Hamm texted her “a lot of really great things” and Wambach promised to call Friday or Saturday after she got some sleep.
“She’s the epitome of what a leader can be and what an impact somebody can have in somebody’s career at a young age,” Wambach said, noting that she’s hoping to have the same kind of impact on Alex Morgan, the 23-year-old star who scored 44 goals in her first 66 U.S. games and played for the Flash in 2011.
Wambach said she almost wanted to stop before breaking any of Hamm’s records out of respect, but “I’ve got this World Cup title that I’ve never won, and I’ve got to keep scoring goals to get there.”
Wambach is aiming to play in her fourth World Cup in 2015, though it isn’t yet definite that new U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni will keep Wambach, who will then be 35, on the roster. Wambach said it would be tougher for her to sit out the World Cup than it would be to push herself physically to make the team.
“It’s really an honor and a privilege to do this as a job and for a living,” Wambach said, adding that it’s “crazy” that she could play in her fourth World Cup but crazier “that I’ve never won one.”
By the end of the news conference, Wambach was back to talking about her teammates, who made it a point to get her the ball early and often in their win over South Korea.
“It’s a valuable lesson – not just for me, and not just that I feel good that my teammates loved me enough yesterday to help me get this record through and out of the way – but it’s a lesson to everybody that we need each other in the world we live in these days,” Wambach said. “There’s a lot of tough things that people have to deal with and tragedies that go on.
“Sometimes it helps when you’ve got somebody next to you helping you along the way, putting your arm around their shoulder or them putting their arm around yours and saying, ‘Hey, you know what? I’ve got you.’ And that’s what I summarize and sum up all last night with, is my teammates going, ‘Hey, you know what? We’ve got you tonight, Abby.’ And I appreciate them for that.”