There’s no better way to envelope the United States’ remarkable Women’s World Cup run than to acknowledge that the team’s most potent attacker of all-time needed her teammates to help her win the ultimate team prize.
Abby Wambach has scored more goals than any American, and more World Cup goals than all but two players in the history of women’s soccer. She’s the face of an era of U.S. women’s soccer, a symbol of the States’ swagger.
And now that era has a World Cup title, one that she helped kickstart on the field but found its form with her on the bench.
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Wambach’s goal against Nigeria in the final Group D match awoke a slumbering offense that hadn’t scored in two and a half hours of soccer going back to the 3-1 win over Australia, but the team needed to move away from the “lump it to Abby’s noggin” approach in order to become a championship unit.
The Nigeria goal ended up Wambach’s only goal of the tournament, after scoring three in 2003, six in 2007 and four in 2011. For the 2015 World Cup, it puts her on even footing with Kelley O’Hara, Alex Morgan, Lauren Holiday, Tobin Heath and Christen Press.
Only Megan Rapinoe (two) and Carli Lloyd (six) scored more than a single goal in earning the States’ historic third star, and even their superlative performances tell the story of how the U.S. in 2015 became a team worthy of its championship predecessors.
Rapinoe was the States’ dynamic force for the group stage, and Lloyd took the wheel for the knockout rounds (and did she ever last night?!?). Hope Solo was perhaps the most important player when Australia came charging out of the gates to start the tournament, and Julie Johnston may’ve won tournament MVP were it not for her penalty conceded against Germany (and Lloyd’s 16-minute hattie).
Finally, as in most tournament, the champion needed some good fortune. It earned a date with No. 1 Germany mere days after the opponent had gone 120 minutes in knocking out France (one of only two teams to beat the USWNT since 2014). It overcame its star missing a penalty and watched Germany’s hero miss one in return.
Wambach’s name was always going to carry its weight along Hamm, Foudy, etc. due to her ritual slaughter of the record books, but this World Cup title needed Lloyd, Johnston and so many others to get there.
And that just works for us, right down to a quiet play from Wambach that so typified the States’ run while being atypical to our expectations. The legendary No. 20, now a sub, held up the ball in the left corner as Germany tried to find an equalizer. A few players of possession later, O’Hara buried the goal that sunk the Germans.
No name on the score sheet, but one in the winner’s ledger.