Abby Wambach walked off the field for the final time like a rock star — mic drop and all.
NEW ORLEANS — Abby Wambach walked off the field for the final time like a rock star — mic drop and all.
It sounded as if she was ready to party like one, too.
She wasn’t able to leave with a victory in her final game with the U.S. national team. But China’s 1-0 victory on Wednesday night wasn’t going to diminish the triumphant nature of her extraordinary career.
Wambach said her teammates apologized profusely to her afterward, but she told them, “There’s nothing to be sorry about. Today wasn’t about getting a result.”
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Wambach played into the 72nd minute, managing two threatening headers and a shot from inside the penalty area before subbing out of a match for the final time.
“It’s kind of symbolic; I get 70 minutes and we don’t score a goal,” Wambach said, alluding to why it’s time for her, at 35, to retire.
The career leader in international play — for men and women, with 184 goals— kicked off her cleats and hugged each teammate on the field before walking to the bench, smiling, to embrace her coaches and remaining teammates as the crowd chanted her name.
“I love this team,” Wambach said in comments delivered on the field to fans after the game. “It has been my pleasure and my honor to represent you all, the fans, for as long as I’ve been able to. … The future is so bright. These women are going to kill it.”
And she made it clear that, despite the loss, it was time to celebrate, saying, “Bourbon Street, watch out,” before dropping the microphone on the field and walking off alone as her teammates waited behind, applauding with the rest of the crowd.
China scored in the 58th minute, when Wang Shuang volleyed in a bounding cross from Wang Shanshan.
The U.S. had gone 104 home games without losing since falling to Denmark in 2004. The U.S. women had gone 92-0-12 since.
Wambach made news before the match when she called for U.S. soccer officials to fire Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach of the men’s team.
Wambach’s most provocative criticisms dealt with Klinsmann’s efforts to recruit players born, raised and trained elsewhere and have them play for the U.S.
She referred to those players as “a bunch of these foreign guys,” specifically mentioning Jermaine Jones and Fabian Johnson, who were born in Germany and played there before committing to play for the U.S.
Although Wambach complimented both players, she implied that efforts to recruit such players came at the expense of youth player development inside the U.S.
“I would definitely fire Jurgen,’’ she said, adding: “He hasn’t really focused, I feel, enough attention on the youth programs. Although he says he has, I don’t think he has.’’