Abby Wambach scored her 100th career goal in her hometown to lead the U.S. Women’s National Team to a 1-0 victory against Canada in front of 8,443 wildly appreciative fans at Marina Auto Stadium.
Wambach, who was a high school All-American at Our Lady of Mercy in Rochester, becomes the ninth woman in soccer history to score 100 career international goals, and the fifth American, joining Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (129), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). Wambach’s 100th goal comes in just her 129th career match, giving her the best goals-to-games ratio in U.S. history.
The milestone comes one year and three days after Wambach broke her left leg in the USA’s final tune up for the 2008 Olympics. It was Wambach’s first international goal since the injury and makes her the second U.S. players to score her 100th goal in Rochester after Hamm became the first in 1998.
Twenty-one-year-old forward Lauren Cheney, who replaced Wambach on the Olympic roster, came into the game in the 63rd minute and 15 minutes later set up the historic goal.
“I think it’s pretty fitting that Lauren Cheney, the girl that replaced me going to the Olympics after my leg breaking, played me an amazing ball,” said Wambach. “I took a great first touch, and just hit it far post. Thankfully, it didn’t go wide. I was peeling out, truckin’ to the sideline because I thought it was going in. I can’t really describe the emotion. I don’t think it’s really set in quite yet. It’s been a long year and to come home to score the 100th goal here in Rochester couldn’t be more of a picture perfect ending.”
The goal came following a Canadian goal kick as substitute Tobin Heath won the header, sending a short pass to Shannon Boxx in the middle of the field. She collected the ball and played forward to Cheney, who controlled and spun towards the goal, slipping a perfect pass behind Canadian defender Candace Chapman. Wambach ran onto the ball in the left side of the penalty area, took a touch and rolled her 15-yard shot past Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc and into the lower right corner just inside the post.
“I’m happy to be here right now, sitting on the bench to see that goal happen,” said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage, who scored 71 international goals herself for Sweden. “Cheney coming off the bench playing that great ball through and you just hear the sound of it and it’s fantastic. This is awesome.”
The U.S. team dominated possession in the match as Canada chose to pull back inside its own half, putting zero pressure on the U.S. backs. The Americans piled up a 21-3 shot advantage and had 10 corner kicks to Canada’s two.
The USA’s best early chance came in the eighth minute as midfielder Angela Hucles rocked the crossbar from 19 yards out, but her shot struck the underside of the bar and bounced away.
Wambach had several half chances to get her 100th before finally scoring, bringing the fans to their feet on each occasion. The first came in the seventh minute as she broke into the penalty area on the right side only to have Chapman block her shot away.
In the 49th minute, Megan Rapinoe bent a cross on the ground from the flank, but LeBlanc beat Wambach to bouncing ball. Amy Rodriguez spun in another low cross from the left wing in the 52nd minute, but Wambach just missed making contact on the slide as he was bundled over by a defender.
In the 61st, Hucles sent a little chip over top of the Canadian defense on a free kick from the left flank. Wambach stretched for the diving header, but just couldn’t get her head on the ball at the top of the six yard box.
In the 63rd, Wambach came the closest to scoring, getting free in the left side of the penalty area before sending a delicate chip to the far post, but the angle was just too steep and the ball flew wide.
Canada’s most dangerous chance may have come in the 68th minute as substitute Chelsea Stewart got behind the U.S. defense via a high ball over the middle as the U.S. back line was pushed over to the left of the field. The speedy Heather Mitts ran her down, blocked her shot and cleared the ball away.
In the 77th minute, Cheney had a chance for a goal of her own as she got behind the Canadian defense on a perfect slip pass from Wambach, but Emily Zurrer ran her down from behind and tackled the ball away.
U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage started Cat Whitehill at right back, giving the veteran defender her first cap since she tore her ACL in June of 2008. Whitehilll played very well in her 45 minutes before giving way to Mitts at halftime.
The 21-year-old Heath came on in the 75th minute for Heather O’Reilly and saw her first action since the quarterfinal match of the 2008 Olympics against Canada. Heath’s first touch of the game was an audacious nutmeg of a Canadian midfielder and a few minutes later she pulled off a double nutmeg down the left flank, hitting the ball to Shannon Boxx whose cross was controlled by Cheney inside the six, but she couldn’t turn to fire on goal. The ball was eventually bundled out by the Canadian defense for the USA’s 10th corner kick of the game.
The U.S. played without team captain Christie Rampone who had emergency abdominal surgery yesterday, but Amy LePeilbet and Rachel Buehler played excellent games in the central defense, helping limit Canada to just one shot on goal. U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart picked up the shutout, but was forced to make just one save.
The U.S. team now travels to Charleston, S.C., to face Canada again, this one at Blackbaud Stadium on Wednesday, July 22 at 8 p.m. ET. The match will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports en Espanol.