United States Women’s National Team forward Abby Wambach is still sitting on 99 career international goals. On Sunday, July 19, she will have the opportunity to score her 100th goal in her hometown, Rochester, NY. Canada’s Christine Sinclair will also be looking for her 100th goal, making for quite a dramatic storyline in the race to 100.
Recently, Wambach took the time to talk about all things from WPS, to recovering from a broken leg, to this quest for history, one that she does not like to blow out of proportion.
First, how have you been enjoying Women’s Professional Soccer and being back in the Washington, D.C. area?
Abby Wambach: Getting to know the girls has been a lot of fun. You are kind of inputting yourself into a community where as with the national team you are all over the place. I just have found that the level of play is high and for me that is the most exciting part.
It must be nice to be back in Washington, where you were for your WUSA days as well.
A.W.: Yea, I mean we are in a completely different area and we are playing in a completely different stadium. On those fronts it is pretty different and the team is very different so it kind of feels definitely like a new league and a new team even though it is called the same thing.
And you would say that you have taken on more of a leadership role, right?
A.W.: Yea, last time around I was just out of college and Mia [Hamm] was the person I looked to for information and leadership and now I don’t know if the other younger players are looking to me for advice but I know that is the role I have and one that I have embraced.
You have 99 goals at the international level. What has given you such success?
A.W.: Well, at this point I haven’t scored for the national team for over a year now so I am trying to get back that part of my game, but I think that the key to scoring goals is to just keep working hard. I know for me, my work ethic is something that has always given me the opportunity to score goals and obviously having good service and good players around you puts you in a position to score goals.
Do you think that getting that the looming 100th goal has been a distraction at all?
A.W.: I don’t know if it has been a distraction. Leading up to the Olympics it was all that people could talk about and then I broke my leg and I have only been back one game with the full team, so it is a story. I don’t really buy into it, but if it is something that gets the media talking about our team, than the more publicity our team can get the better it is for us.
And going home to Rochester just adds to that story. What’s it going to be like to go play in front of your home crowd?
A.W.: Mia scored her 100th goal in Rochester so I just figured I might as well wait and follow in the footsteps of the greatest goal scorer in the history of women’s soccer [laughs]. It will be great to get a chance to score in front of my hometown in Rochester, regardless of whether it I my first or my 100th goal.
Would you be disappointed if something good does not happen for you in Rochester?
A.W.: No, I mean international soccer is so competitive now that you can’t expect to score goals, you just have to work as hard as you possibly can to put yourself in a position to do it. And, if the chance comes and I finish it and I put it away, I’ll be pleased, but it is difficult to score goals and by no means do I expect it going into games. I want to score goals, but I don’t expect it all.
What’s the recovery process been like?
A.W.: It has been up and down. It hasn’t been pain-free or easy by any means. But, I have tried to keep a positive attitude about it and keep my wits. It is not the easiest thing to be pulled away from the Olympics and the Gold Medal Celebration Tour, but I have a great support system of family and friends. I was able to do a lot of things that I normally don’t do because of soccer – spending a lot more time with my family and friends on holidays and on vacation. So, I am really blessed to have the opportunity to step away from the game and to get a little bit of perspective on why I do play and why I am happy playing and things that I want to keep working on and things that our team needs help on. There are all these things that I really feel like I took away – in a positive way – from breaking my leg. I chose the positive route.
What has your interaction with [U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach] Pia Sundhage been like through this whole process?
A.W.: She knows it is going to be a process, even up to a year or year and half, so she is concerned with me continuing to develop as a player so that I can help this team win a World Cup in 2011. And, it’s not easy being a coach now with WPS, you just have to take it for what it is worth. WPS can be a hindrance to developing your team or it can be a benefit and Pia has taken a positive approach and making sure that we are all getting the work in out of what we can out of our WPS teams.
And every game this year for the U.S. is a friendly. Does that make the transition process easier?
A.W.: The fact that they are called friendlies does not mean that they are friendly by any means. We go into all of those games thinking that it is an international game and we can take away from it what we want. We always want to get the most out of all of these games.
And you are obviously getting very familiar with Canada. Christine Sinclair is also looking for her 100th goal. Have you had any type of dialogue with her at all?
A.W.: The race to 100 [laughs]! Well, yes, we had a little sit down media session when we were in Toronto for our last game and that was kind of funny. Christine and I have a healthy relationship in that we respect each other and the game the way that each other plays the game. Hopefully she doesn’t score against us and she is hoping the same thing for me, but we wish the other – the fastest person to 100 – the best.
So say you are in Rochester and the U.S. earns a penalty kick. Are you looking to step up and take that or do you want to earn it in a different way?
A.W.: A goal is a goal is a goal. If there is a P.K. called and I feel like I can put it away, I am pretty sure that I will take it. It is not how as a forward, it is how many goals. I don’t care in which way they are scored.
Finally, media and fans love to rank players and where they stand. Do you pay any attention to that at all?
A.W.: No, I don’t. I tend to just do my own thing. I tend not to focus on those things.
The United States faces off with Canada Marina Auto’s Stadium in Rochester, NY on Sunday, July 19 at 3 p.m. The two teams face off again on Wednesday, July 22 at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, SC.
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