In the locker room we joked about Abby Wambach’s boots—a pair of flashy yellow NIKE Mercurial Vapors. Tobin Heath even tried them on, looking ridiculous with the combination of the bright color and Abby’s much-bigger shoe size. Little did we know that those boots were about to make history by breaking Mia Hamm’s all-time international goal-scoring record. #ChasingMia became #ChasingAbby within 45 minutes of magical action in front of nearly 20,000 fans at Red Bull Arena.
A fairly ordinary international friendly was suddenly transformed into something incredibly special. The pitch became hallowed ground. The match ball was instantaneously turned into a valuable artefact. And the simple act of sitting on the bench (which is usually more relaxed during first-half action) was suddenly teeming with anxious excitement. Team press officer Aaron Heifetz came to us after Abby’s second goal of the night and told us that if she broke the record we could rush the field. Suddenly spectating became especially involved and even stressful. Were we actually allowed to do this? How best to quickly get off the upper level of the bench and onto the field? Every time it was our turn to do a few warm-up jogs on the end line opposite where we were attacking, Christen Press and I were silently begging Abby not to choose that moment to make history (we would have had 120 yards to run and most likely would miss out on the celebration). Even wearing the U.S. crest on that night at home in New Jersey, which I thought could not have possibly been any more meaningful to me, took on new significance.
Abby’s stature and demeanour alone make her the perfect hero in the world of women’s sports. But getting to know her over the last few years, I’ve realized that it is much more than that. She is humble, but not so much so that she fails to acknowledge how special her accomplishments are. She is proud of being great, but also the first to acknowledge her teammates and make the night about more than herself.
It was surreal to be involved in this moment in soccer and sports history. And getting to sub into the game, which was of utmost importance to me, was suddenly just a minor bonus. Being part of the U.S. National Team is always an honor, but that night at Red Bull Arena will forever be etched in my memory as much more than what will be written in the record books.
© Yael Averbuch
The WSU Team bringing you news and updates from the world of women’s football.