HARRISON, N.J. — 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.”