It was all about Abby Wednesday night at the Superdome in New Orleans, and not even a 1-0 loss to China that ended the Americans 11 year, 104 match unbeaten home streak, could ruin the celebration.
That the game was more or less beside the point was clear from the start with Wambach’s teammates focused on getting the ball to international soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer to the exclusion of all else.
But try as they might, even while controlling almost all of the ball, the World Cup winners rarely threatened the visitors goal.
Playing her second consecutive match against the U.S., China’s reserve keeper Lina Zhao was very confident in cutting out crosses from Tobin Heath, Heather O’Reilly and company that were intended to give Wambach a chance to add to her goal total of 184.
Much to the disappointment of the 32,950 fans at the Superdome, when a goal finally did come, it came for China.
The 58th-minute goal came against the run of play when Shuang Wang’s shot deflected off of Meghan Klingenberg’s leg, stranding Hope Solo for the decisive goal.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis tried to get her team to focus more on the match and less on getting Wambach on the score sheet, but China’s goal probably did more to accomplish that goal than anything the World Cup winning manager could have said.
Now with the game in the balance the Yanks tried to fight back, but China were well organized defensively and posed a threat on the counter.
With time ticking away on both the game and Wambach’s career, the Superdome crowd was growing desperate for a goal from its hero, but it was not to be.
China hung on for the win and then it was time to shower Wambach with more love. Wambach returned that emotion in spades in both a television interview and her address to the crowd.
Then Wambach signed off with a winking warning to Bourbon Street, dropped the mike and headed out into the New Orleans night.