Wambach Hangs Up Her Cleats

Jul 5, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; United States forward Abby Wambach (20) celebrates after defeating Japan in the final of the FIFA 2015 Women's World Cup at BC Place Stadium. United States won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports  ORG XMIT: USATSI-230322 ORIG FILE ID:  20150705_ajw_mc1_237.jpgU.S. women’s soccer team star Abby Wambach announced her retirement last week, ending a 15-year career that saw her become the all-time leading goal scorer in international matches (male or female).In addition to setting what’s basically the biggest record in the entire sport, Wambach’s career highlights include two Olympic gold medals, being named the U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year six times, a 2012 Women’s World Player of the Year title, and a Women’s World Cup victory this past July. Though she was pulled from the starting lineup early in that tournament, Wambach made headlines for accepting her evolving role with grace and leading the team from the sidelines.After the announcement, U.S. Head Coach Jill Ellis described Wambach as “one of the greatest players” ever, saying: “What she has done for women’s soccer and women’s sports overall with her amazing talents on the field and her personality off it has been inspiring to watch. I am just extremely happy that she could end her career with that elusive World Cup title and go out on top, right where she deserves to be.”There are two videos of Wambach you need to see to understand what she has meant to the sport of soccer as a player and a leader.The first is this series from 2013, when Wambach was about to pass Mia Hamm as the all-time leading goal scorer. Hamm and Wambach reflect on the torch that was being passed from one legend to another, and Wambach welcomes the opportunity to cheer on the next woman to break the record, saying: “I guarantee you Alex Morgan is going to be next on that list to surpass both of us, and nothing would make us happier, because we’ve always said, ‘I want to leave the game way better than I found it.’”The second is this clip Wambach recorded in an empty room the night before July’s World Cup victory. Knowing it will likely be her last major game on the international stage, she expresses her gratitude at playing with a group of “extraordinary” women and describes what the final match against Japan will mean to her remarkable career.Is Abby Wambach your hero yet? Yeah, we’re in the same boat.