To be honest, I've never been much of a soccer guy. Growing up, I loved the hard-hitting, physical play of football and hockey. But that all changed in 2011.
It took me a couple of days to write this. Not because I was being lazy or pushing it off for more important sports stories, but rather I wanted to soak it in.
The United States were losing in the final minutes against their rival Brazil in the World Cup. Wambach was able to crush a header, something she has done a thousand times before, into the back of the net and score the latest goal in international soccer history.
Although the United States eventually lost to Japan, the United States put themselves on the map as an international soccer powerhouse. For the first time in, well, forever, the United States Women's National Team was on the front cover of every newsstand in the country. Even in 1999, when the United States was captivated by the Mia Hamm led USWNT, the stage was smaller than as of late.
But Wambach's goal (see what I did there?) has always been the same: winning a World Cup.
Her illustrious career has made her the recipient of many awards and acknowledgements. She's the leading scorer in United States history, for both men and women, at 184 goals. She is also a two-time Olympic gold champion. But, to her, those have always taken a back seat.
In the 2015 World Cup, Wambach had a much different experience. In her final three matches, she came off the bench and played in a much more limited role. Nevertheless, when she took the field Team USA Captain Carli Lloyd would take off her captain's armband and give it to Wambach.
On July 5, 2015, the United States was able to capture their first World Cup title since 1999, beating Japan 5-2. Carli Lloyd scored a three goals in 16 minutes, making it the fastest hat-trick in World Cup history. Lauren Holiday and Tobin Heath also chipped in with a pair of goals. But, as soon as Wambach took the pitch, Captain Carli Lloyd handed off the armband, in what is now one of the better moments in sports history
On December 16th, Wambach will play in her final game at the Superdome in New Orleans, LA as part of the USWNT Victory Tour.
Thank you, Abby.
Its been a hell of a ride.
By Pete Packowski