ROCHESTER, N.Y. (Saturday, September 25, 2004) - Olympic hero Abby Wambach put on a dazzling display in front of a sold-out crowd in her hometown, scoring two first half goals on trademark headers and playing a part in the two other scores while leading the USA to a surprisingly dramatic 4-3 victory over Iceland in the opening game of the "Fan Celebration Tour."The win didn't come easy, as Iceland stormed back from a 3-0 deficit and stunned the home team and the crowd with three goals in a span of six minutes to tie the match in the 72nd minute. It took a tap-in goal from defender Heather Mitts after a goalmouth scramble in the last minute of stoppage time to decide the outcome.
"What a great reception," said Hamm of the Rochester fans. "This night was about Abby and I'm so proud that she had such a great game and scored two great goals."
The crowd of 14,870 was the largest ever to watch a soccer game at Frontier Field and the entire evening was a tribute to the 24-year-old Wambach, who attended Our Lady of Mercy High School in Rochester and scored the winning goal in overtime against Brazil in the Olympic gold medal game.
With Wambach's pre-game introduction being drowned out by the cheering fans, a full-color four-page pull-out in the local paper dedicated to her this morning, a huge sign from a local sponsor on a building adjacent to the stadium announcing "Abbycadbra!" and thousands of fans waving "Absolutely Abby!" signs, Wambach did not disappoint, scoring her 19th and 20th goals of the year.
Wambach's 20-goal year is only the fifth in U.S. Women's National Team history, each by a different player. She joins a Hall of Fame-caliber group of Michelle Akers (39 in 1991), Mia Hamm (20 in 1998), Kristine Lilly (20 in 1999) and Tiffeny Milbrett (21 in 1999). She is the youngest player to accomplish this feat at 24 years, 3 months, 23 days. With two more goals, Wambach will log the second-highest scoring year in U.S. history. Her 20-goals this year have come over the last 21 matches.
"When I thought about what it would be like (in Rochester), this really exceeded every expectation I had," said Wambach. "The reception I got when my name was announced was unbelievable. Maybe our stars are aligned that our games have to end this way, but it was a special. I was getting frustrated out there because I didn't want it to end this way for Rochester. These fans deserved a win."
After teasing the crowd with two early chances, Wambach brought them to their feet with a goal in the 25th minute. The goal began with the U.S. attack pinning Iceland in their box and the ball popped out to the top of the penalty box. Midfielder Aly Wagner played it quickly to Cindy Parlow on the right side, where she beat a defender with a nifty dribble and chipped a cross from the edge of the penalty area to the far post. Wambach rose above a defender and headed the ball into the lower left corner past the sprawling Iceland goalkeeper Thora Helgadottir.
Wambach's second goal of the night came in similar fashion, but from the left side. This time it was Wagner who lofted a cross into the middle and once again Iceland had no answer for the 5-foot-11 Wambach, who snapped a header into the lower left corner. It was the 34th goal of her career in just 46 matches.
The U.S. made it 3-0 early in the second half, with Wambach and Mia Hamm combining for a scintillating give-and-go just inside the Iceland penalty area. Charging through the opposing defense, Hamm found Wambach with her back to goal, where she deftly back-heeled the ball into the path of Hamm, who hit the ball in stride and buried a left-footed shot into the upper left corner. It was her world record 154th career goal.
"(Hamm's pass) was behind me because I expected her to touch it to me a little sooner," said Wambach of the third goal. "So I back-heeled it, it went right into her run and she blistered it and it went upper corner. It was a sweet goal to watch."
With the match seemingly decided, both teams began to substitute freely, but then Iceland roared back and tied the match on a trio of goals in rapid succession. The first came in the 67th minute when Erla Arnarsdottir, who had just come in the game a minute prior, ran onto the rebound of a shot by forward Olga Faerseth and bent her shot into the lower left corner from 12 yards out past substitute goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill, who had come on for starter Briana Scurry at halftime. The next two goals came on long-range blasts, with Edda Gardarsdottir and Laufey Olafsdottir both finishing with well-placed shots into the right corner. For all three players, it was the first-ever international goal of their careers and also marked the first-ever goals for Iceland against the USA in six all-time meetings.
"We were all pumped and excited to play and we scored three goals, but then we started subbing and we all let down a little bit," said Wambach. "But it just shows the parity in this game right now, that you can't do that, because in a matter of minutes Iceland was back in the game tied 3-3."
While Iceland emptied its bench to finish the match, the U.S. pushed forward hard to get a fourth goal and earn its 21st win of the year. The game-winning goal came off a last chance corner kick by 57th minute substitute Shannon MacMillan from the left side. Wambach aggressively jumped high to head the ball down toward goal, where it fell at the feet of captain Julie Foudy, who pushed it towards the goal for Mitts to tap it in between two defenders.
The match marked the return of midfielder Tiffany Roberts and forward Shannon MacMillan to the U.S. team. Both were alternates on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team and were called into take the place of midfielders Shannon Boxx and Kristine Lilly, who had prior commitments and could not attend.
The U.S. women continue the "Fan Appreciation Tour" next Wednesday, Sept. 29, in Pittsburgh, taking on Iceland again at Heinz Field (7:30 p.m.) where Lilly and Boxx will play. The third game of the tour takes place in Portland, Ore., on Oct. 3, as the USA faces New Zealand at PGE Park (5 p.m. PT).
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: U.S. Women's National Team vs. Iceland
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Frontier Field; Rochester, N.Y.
Date: Sept. 25, 2004; Kickoff - 7:30 p.m. ET
Attendance: 14,870 (sell-out)
Weather: Cool, cloudy - 69 degrees
1 2 F
USA 2 2 4
ISL 0 3 3
USA - Abby Wambach (Cindy Parlow) 25th minute.
USA - Abby Wambach (Aly Wagner) 42.
USA - Mia Hamm (Abby Wambach) 52.
ISL - Erla Arnarsdottir (unassisted) 67.
ISL - Edda Gardarsdottir (unassisted) 68.
ISL - Laufey Olafsdottir (Olga Faerseth) 72.
USA - Heather Mitts (Julie Foudy) 93+.
USA: 1-Briana Scurry (18-Kristin Luckenbill, 46); 3-Christie Rampone, 4-Cat Reddick (2-Heather Mitts, 46), 6-Brandi Chastain, 15-Kate Markgraf; 10-Aly Wagner, 11-Julie Foudy (Capt.), 8-Angela Hucles; 9-Mia Hamm (21-Tiffany Roberts, 56), 12-Cindy Parlow (19-Shannon MacMillan, 57), 20-Abby Wambach.
Subs not used: 14-Joy Fawcett.
Head Coach: April Heinrichs.
ISL: 1-Thora Helgadóttir (18-Pala Einarsdóttir, 86); 3-Olga Faerseth, 4-Edda Gardarsdóttir, 5-Malfridur Sigurdardóttir (2-Asta Thordardóttir, 75), 6-Laufey Olafsdóttir (17-Nina Kristinsdóttir, 80), 7-Holfridur Magnusdóttir (15-Dora Larusdóttir, 66), 8-Erla Hendriksdóttir (Capt.), 9-Margret Vidarsdóttir, 10-Iris Andresdóttir (11-Gudlaug Jonsdóttir, 74), 13-Dora Stefansdóttir (16-Erla Arnarsdóttir, 66), 14-Asta Arnadóttir.
Subs Not Used: 12-Maria Agustsdóttir.
Head Coach: Helena Olafsdóttir.
Shots on Goal: 9/11
Corner Kicks: 5/7
Referee: Kari Seitz (USA)
Assistant Referee #1: Sharon Wheeler (USA)
Assistant Referee #2: Karalee Sutton (USA)
Fourth Official: Katherine Dziedzic (USA)
Chevrolet Player of the Game: Abby Wambach
2004 U.S. WNT "Fan Celebration Tour" Results / Schedule