Finally, Abby Wambach gets her World Cup title

Dan Lauletta July 6, 2015 65

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Prior to the start of Sunday’s World Cup final, both the United States and Japan stayed in their pregame huddles long enough that center referee Kateryna Monzul had to blow her whistle several times to get them to take their positions.

From the highest points at BC Place in Vancouver, it was clear what was transpiring in the United States’ huddle. Abby Wambach, with her now distinctive golden hair, was giving her motivational speech. For the fourth time in the seven World Cup games, Wambach was not in the starting lineup, but it was clear she was bouncing up and down with enough energy for the 11 who were.

“Surreal,” Wambach said about the opening 16 minutes. “Four goals in (16) minutes. Literally I don’t even know how that happens especially in a World Cup final.”

[MORE: US beats Japan for third World Cup title  |  WATCH: Lloyd scores 16-minute hat trick]

Whether the team’s hair-on-fire start was due in part to Wambach’s latest rah-rah speech or not, to a woman everyone spoke about how much Wambach does for the team, it was that they wanted to win the World Cup in part for her that drove Wambach.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Ali Krieger, a longtime teammate of Wambach for both club and country, gave Wambach a hug before the game and told her that she hoped the team could win it on her behalf.

“I’m one of the older players with her in that group but I think the world of her and I’m so happy we could actually win for her,” Krieger said. “When she gets on the pitch, everything just seems to be okay. You look to her and you’re just so calm. You just think that we’re going to win and we’re going to keep it together. It’s something that not many leaders have. I think we’re very lucky.”

[MORE: Lloyd wins Golden Ball as tournament’s best player]

When Wambach came on the pitch Sunday, it was not the scene or situation anyone could have imagined. The United States were ahead 5-2 and about 15 minutes from winning the World Cup and completing Wambach’s personal inventor of soccer accomplishments. To that point, Carli Lloyd had been wearing the captain’s armband and she immediately handed it over to Wambach.

“She’s tried to do it a few times before and I immediately declined like, ‘No it’s no big deal,'” Wambach said. “But this time she kind of insisted. To be honest, I was just glad we were winning.”

Said Lloyd: “When Abby has come into a few games it’s a little crazy to switch the armband. But today I wanted to make sure that she put the armband on because she deserves it. She has been legendary to this team. I’m so thankful I can all her my friend, my teammate, and I’m just so proud that her last World Cup she could go out strong.”

Neither Lloyd nor Wambach are the actual captain. That role still rests on Christie Rampone. But like Wambach, Rampone found herself on the bench for most of the World Cup, a development that originated because of an injury. Lloyd, in her answer, made it clear that she has never been named captain. And Wambach, after the game, gave the armband over to Rampone (who also made a brief appearance in the match) to wear for the trophy presentation.

“She’s my captain,” Wambach said. “Always will be.”

In return, Rampone told Wambach to hang back so they could be the last two on the podium and then raise the World Cup trophy together. Rampone is the only player on the current team with more seniority than Wambach, but even she wanted to acknowledge the time and effort Wambach has put into with the team.

“Afterwards she handed it off to me and I was like, ‘You’re going to lift this trophy with me,’” Rampone said. “We’ve been through a lot together, on and off the field. It was pretty amazing to lift it with her. We’ve been captains together through this whole thing.”

So now that Wambach has finally had her hands on the World Cup trophy, how does she feel? Her answer, in the short term, maybe a bit disappointing.

“I literally don’t know how I feel. It’s a bizarre thing that’s going on right now.”

On Friday, Wambach reiterated what she has been saying for years. “I just want to be world champion.”

Mission accomplished.

  • Hwah

    I’ll break the ice, but I kind of love that this win was not about Abby (except in the media). Glad she got her Cup, hope she retires immediately while on top.

    • newsouth

      Do you not see the Madison Ave article? The sponsorship dollars are good thru the end of the Olympic tour (late 2017).

      • Hwah

        First, sorry you weren’t able to “watch” any of this cup since the US was in it until the end.

        Second, Abby gets the dollars whether she plays in the Olympics or not. I think she’d be a fool not to retire right now.

        • Guest

          Her ego will probably get in the way.

          • Hwah

            I think her financial adviser will tell her to retire with the ultimate victory, no reason to tarnish it, the cash……it will flow now more than ever.

        • newsouth

          don’t feel sorry for me. i’m sticking to my guns, will not support this team with wambach on the roster or watch any games or tournaments they are in. actually, i’m sorry i don’t get to see press but she’s on the bench anyway. i’m not supporting this “so called” living legend who sold girls out for a mercedes and a condo while she was earning six figures from sponsors. i’m good.

          btw, how can she make a fool of herself during the tour games? those games are similar to a WTA senior tour. if she stays for the olympics, she will just come off the bench. that’s established now.

          • HM

            It’s foolish to believe Abbster won’t be in Rio 2019 as a starter. Press and Engen as alternates, maybe.

          • non!

            France has given up the 2019 WWC?

          • HM

            Rio 2016. My mistake.

          • Keithustus

            On the team, maybe. Starter, no. Especially if Ellis does a 4-5-1 variation like the last three games. She says 4-3-3 but what position do two of those front-line players play normally?

          • Lorehead

            Then don’t comment on them, either. Also, half the things you’re mad at Wambach about objectively never happened.

          • dw

            Respect.

        • Lorehead

          Abby Wambach was a late-game sub with no goals in the last three games, and the team played so much better that Ellis won’t ever start her in an important match again. (Not to single her out, when she had a better World Cup than several others, but everyone and her dog knows we’re not going back to Abby-ball now.) She got a game-winning goal in this World Cup and can be proud of how she played, but she knows that, if she stayed on, it would be all downhill from here.

  • Titi14

    There was a fear that going into the WC that it could turn into a Wambach show/Farewell at the world cup and it ws going to be all about her.

    But Ellis showed great character and made some big calls.Everyone knew Wambach was not the same player anymore and Ellis rightly put her on the bench.

    I mean her game has deteriorated to such a low level that she just looks off now even at her peak fitness. I watched the few minutes I saw of her in the WC and I don’t see her effectiveness besides being the motivational coach.

    Congratulations on a great career winning World Cup and Olympic Gold

    If the US was to start preparing for OG16- its time to cut her off in the middle of victory tour – most probably at her home town and give the Olympic squad the chance to gel .

    • Her effectiveness? She was about to take a high percentage shot at goal while running faster than her defender. Japan wisely fouled her because it could have easily been 6-2.

      The ref should have given a yellow for that foul.

      • leftbacklion

        I’m pretty sure that the ref did give Sawa a Yellow Card for that foul.

        • I think your right now that you point it out. In fact I’m positive now.

      • Titi14

        Yea ,another oldie past her peak playing in her last WC like Abby. Abby came for like 10 min and was the most fresh of them all.

        I didn’t see her do anything in that period beside Sawa fouling her .

        She has been losing her effectiveness for some time . Time to bring other players in now. Perfect end off – going out on a high.

  • AlexH

    21 players not named Abby also finally got their world cup. I wish somebody would talk about them seeing as how many of them played a bigger role in getting it than Abby.l

    • HM

      Wambachio did little to get them this WC. One goal. Absent in the final. And I’m happy Solo doesn’t get to gloat about a shutout in the final. Two goals let in. No shutout. No record. Now she’s equal to Scurry, not better.

      • Please.

      • Keithustus

        How does the tournament look without that goal?

        • Lorehead

          Pretty much the same. The US still wins its group, but now we needed help from Australia to do it and people are even more concerned, not so much about whether we can handle Colombia as about the semifinal. If China still goes the same way, everything plays out from there just about identically.

    • guest

      This just shows that you are not a fan of the team and are just here to push your agenda.

    • Tae

      Shouldn’t 22 players not named Abby have gotten rings? Or did they decide not to give Chalupny one? I could see that.

      • AlexH

        I said “finally” because Rampone already got one in 1999.

      • EbaJ

        Chalupa you at least got in a match. Engen was never off the bench.

        • Tae

          Engen might have a future role though. Chalupny doesn’t.

    • You might have something if most, if not all the team are happy for Abby.

  • Jersey Shore Rises

    I for one will not call out all the Carli Lloyd haters these threads have had over the last year. Instead I will just congratulate the entire USWNT on a devastating win they did in the FIFA 2015 Women Cup….

    Congrats and so proud as an American on how our entire team performed in the the end….

    • john

      Somebody is beginning to remind me why most of America finds Jerseyites rude.

      • guest

        Not all of us are like that but I won’t deny that the spamming of that post seems awfuly hypocritcal of the comentator who is doing exactly what they are professing not to.

      • Tae

        Maybe that’s why Jerseyite Carli has no endorsement potential despite all her huge performances.

  • Lord Zlatan

    She finally got it. Sitting in the bench, Robert Horry has a dozen NBA championship rings, that what it amounts to. I bet shes gonna act like shes the one who won it, and the media and casual soccer fans is going to buy it.

    • newsouth

      Sponsor exes don’t actually watch the games, just go by name recognition, so she should pull more sponsor dollars than lloyd EASILY.

      • Lord Zlatan

        Agreed, probably see her again in OG 2016.

    • Davis

      She is the one who won it. Just like the 22 other players on the roster are also ones who won it.

    • AlexH

      Christie Rampone got TWO world cup medals for riding pine. Nice bookends to a phenomenal career, and much deserved even if she were just a bit player in the tournaments.

    • Tae

      Robert Horry didn’t get those rings riding the pine, he was critical to his teams’ successes.

  • snishy

    Oh dear, on the 3rd star special that aired on FS1, Wambach was asked about retiring and she kept on saying “I don’t know now. It’s so hard”. The whole time I was shaking my head. After this post-World Cup exhibition tour, that would be the perfect time for her to retire. Goes out on top and would most likely add a couple more goals to her tally when playing some lesser teams. She’s not playing in the NWSL and I’m sure there will be people in the soccer world willing to give her a job after retirement. I don’t think she’s going to get a more perfect time to step down. Even if the US won gold next year, still wouldn’t come close to winning the World Cup.

    • Sharon Cobb

      After she got the goal scoring record…that was the perfect time to retire.

      • I’d say this worked out substantially better.

    • Tae

      Then we should make it really easy for her. “Retire, or get cut.”

    • John

      She’s still caught up in the moment. Wouldn’t be surprised if she announces her retirement before the Victory Tour.

      • Lorehead

        Abby Wambach has to know that Ellis is not going to go back to the old style of play after those last three games, and that she’s looking at a career as a backup.

        • dw

          She’s still a draw for the Victory Tour. U$$F wouldn’t let her retire until all the young girls in 10-12 cities have gotten one last chance to see her. Then it’ll only be about 5 more months until the Olympics anyway. Pencil it in right now, Abby will be subbed in at about the 72nd minute of every game on the victory tour.

          • Lorehead

            That’s likely: the fans want to see Lloyd, Solo, Morgan and Wambach, and those home friendlies pay the bills. So she might well stay around for those. She’ll probably grab a goal against Costa Rica while she’s at it. But Wambach has to realize that she wouldn’t start at the Olympics, so she won’t be playing in away or competitive matches and even her minutes in home friendlies will be limited. There’s really not much of a reason for her to stick around through Olympic qualifying.

            It’d be different if she really loved playing and couldn’t imagine life without it, but she said her priorities have changed lately.

          • mockmook

            She will get some (all?) starts in the victory tour.

          • dw

            Careful. By bringing her on late, you keep more butts in more seats through the entire match. Concession sales are important too.

        • leftbacklion

          I was hoping Engen would get some minutes at the end. She’s the only field player to get zero minutes. Can’t argue with Rampone being on the field at the end though.

          • guest

            Wow, I noticed that too but couldn’t remember if she had a few minutes of playing or not. I feel terrible for her that she wasn’t given any minutes but then again neither did the backup GK’s.

          • kevin

            i wish you could use six subs for all fifa matches instead of six to nine players sitting on the bench with no chance to play. maybe more unpredictable and interesting. too bad for engen and backup keepers.

          • Lorehead

            The current substitution rules really are terrible for the treatment of head injuries.

    • dw

      No chance.

  • weltmeister

    congrats to uswnt but
    the uswnt must say thank you fifa and concacaf for the fake group of dead.
    it’s was so easy for the uswnt the group to win.
    colombia and china very very easy and then germany in the semi final.
    germany must play against sweden and france and has no power for the uswnt.
    but
    the fbi arrested 9 concacaf members with jeffrey webb, ex concacaf ceo.
    in the next days we have now news.

    • master boil

      Well we asked for Thailand and Ivory Coast, but Germany knew they wouldn’t get out of the opening round w/o them.

      • weltmeister

        sweden and france very hard for germany or not
        and
        colombia and china was very hard for uswnt, yes or no

        • master boil

          Why were these games hard? Germany is the #1 team in the world? France would have buried them if they finished their chances. How is that FIFA’s fault? Don’t worry Jones will set things right!

    • John

      Will ya stop. You’re just making yourself look like a clown with these inane rants.

    • EbaJ

      And which groups were tougher ?

    • newsouth

      We know the story German Fellow but we must now follow the sheep and proclaim Wambach a living legend (gagging).

  • Tae

    You know what ad campaign I’d like to see with Abby, one where she’s working hard in practice and cheering on her teammates from the bench. I think that could be really effective, I think that even as we applaud the superstars there is widespread dissatisfaction with the culture of me that a smart ad could tap into.

    • Lezzzzgo

      Yes. Anyone who has played a team sport knows how crucial to success the players are who motivate you at practice and in the off season and from the sidelines, even if they aren’t directly contributing on the pitch.

      • Tae

        It’d be such a positive message. Intersperse clips of Abby in her glory years and the hardships she’s endured (losses in the wc, broken leg) with her working her tail off in practice and giving tips to youngsters, then she’s cheering and yelling advice from the bench, Abby voiceover throughout. Ad ends with Abby coming into the game as a sub and the crowd going wild and Carli handing over the captain’s band and then Abby hoisting the trophy. You could make people cry if you got it just right. Be a great shoutout too, to all the bench players out there.

    • john

      Can we include clips of her flopping, blowing off the league, and blaming the turf for her poor play? That might give young players a more complete picture on which to model their careers.