Impact 10:No. 5 Abby Wambach
So much for a quiet year.
In the life cycle of women's soccer, the year after the Olympics is supposed to be the calm one. It's still two years out from the next World Cup and three years from the next Olympics. World Cup qualifying is a year away for countries in the CONCACAF region. Even for stars, it's a year in which the spotlight is just a little less bright.
Or at least it used to be that way. Abby Wambach managed to stay mighty busy in 2013.
On April 14, Wambach played for the Western New York Flash in the franchise's debut in the National Women's Soccer League. For Wambach, it marked the third step in a professional trilogy. She was the emerging star when she played alongside Mia Hamm for the Washington Freedom in the short-lived Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) a decade ago. Later, she was a proven star, but still early in her prime, when she played for the Freedom again and then the Florida-based magicJack in Women's Professional Soccer (WPS). This year, still at her goal-scoring best, she found herself cast as one of the elder stateswomen in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) as the new league attempted to succeed where its predecessors failed.
Wambach's goal-scoring best was then cemented as better than any player in the history of the international game. On June 20, she scored four goals in a friendly against South Korea in Harrison, N.J., extending her total to 160 and moving her past Hamm for most international goals in soccer history.
"The night itself feels like a bit like a blur, but I think what was best about that night was how much my teammates wanted me to score goals," Wambach told USsoccer.com in a recent interview. "It's not often you can feel the actual heartbeat of the entire team wanting something to happen so badly. Maybe it's because they wanted to stop talking about the record, but I'm so proud and it feels so good to know that my teammates wanted that to happen that night, and the truth is that I would do anything for the players on the team.
"It's an honor and amazing feat to own a world record, but I think about all the times my teammates put in me in those positions."
The year wasn't over yet and neither was she.
With anything from first place to fourth place still possible entering the final weekend of the NWSL regular season in August, Western New York earned the top seed in the playoffs. Wambach scored the eventual winner in the finale that clinched home-field advantage. Western New York then advanced to host Portland Thorns in Rochester, N.Y., in the league's first championship match. The match didn't go her way, but the scene in Wambach's hometown was a good one for women's soccer.
As if her year wasn't already enough of a success, Wambach married teammate Sarah Huffman on Oct. 5 in a ceremony that appeared to bring much of the soccer community to Hawaii to celebrate.
Of course, Wambach then scored a goal a couple of weeks later for the United States in a friendly against Australia in San Antonio. Duty called.
Like the national team and like her sport, Wambach some time ago ceased to be a once-every-few-years figure. It is clear that an ever-elusive World Cup championship is the carrot that continues to drive Wambach at this point in her career. She couldn't move much closer to that this year.
But as long as she keeps scoring goals, she won't have many quiet years.