HARRISON, N.J. — She scored with her left, she scored with her right and she scored with her head.
By the end of the first half at Red Bull Arena on Thursday, Abby Wambach had four goals and sole possession of the all-time scoring record in international women’s soccer with 160 career goals for the United States, breaking former teammate Mia Hamm’s old record of 158. The U.S. women scored a convincing 5-0 win in the process.
“It’s special. I could tell my teammates were trying to get me those goals,” Wambach said.
The record-breaking goal came in classic Wambach fashion — on a header — just like her 158th career goal to tie the record.
Wambach finished a shot with her right foot in the 10th minute for her first goal, pulling within one goal of the record. She nearly tied it two minutes later, but Korea Republic goalkeeper Kim Jungmi stuck out her right foot to deflect the open shot.
The second goal, however, came in the 19th minute when Wambach headed in Lauren Cheney’s cross from inside the 6-yard box. Ten minutes later, Wambach emphatically headed in a Megan Rapinoe corner kick giving her a third.
Her fourth came when she used her left foot to tap-in a low cross from Alex Morgan.
“I can’t say enough about how much I look up to Mia, and how amazing the record that she set was,” Wambach said.
Wambach reached the milestone in 68 fewer games than Hamm, who played for the United States from 1987-2004. Hamm is still the all-time leader in points, having accumulated 144 assists along with the goal scoring mark. Hamm has 460 points all-time. Wambach, who now has 382 points.
Hamm was not at the game, but offered her congratulations to Wambach in a statement made through U.S. Soccer.
“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 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.”
Wambach began her career in 2001 but did not score until the next calendar year, when she finished 2002 with five goals. The Pittsford, N.Y., native increased her output marginally in 2003 before exploding onto the scene in 2004 with 31 goals.
One of Wambach’s 31 goals in 2004 – still her most productive year to date – was the Olympic gold medal winning header vs. Brazil. Wambach tucked away a corner kick from Kristine Lilly, who remains the leading assist provider on Wambach goals with 15. The win gave Hamm, along with fellow legends Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain a happy ending to their career.
Last year proved to be the second-most productive for Wambach (27 goals). It coincided with the full-scale emergence of Alex Morgan as a world-class forward. In 2012, Morgan joined Hamm as the only U.S. player to score 20 goals and add 20 assists in a calendar year. Thirteen of Morgan’s 28 all-time assists have been on Wambach goals.