NEWCASTLE, England – These were perhaps going to be the Hope Solo Olympics for the U.S. women’s soccer team. Or maybe the Alex Morgan Games. Instead, they belong so far to the old reliable, Abby Wambach, who has scored in every match to lead the Americans into the semifinals.
The 32-year-old striker slid onto the ball in the 27th minute Friday to knock home her fourth goal of the tournament and then led a celebration of cartwheels – a tribute to the gymnastics team – in the United States’ 2-0 win over New Zealand in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament.
“Everything she does on and off the field, she leads this team,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. “She’s in a good place, that’s for sure.”
Sydney Leroux added an insurance goal in the 87th minute for the two-time defending gold medalists, who will play Canada in Manchester on Monday. The Americans beat the Canadians 4-0 in Olympic qualifying in January.
Wambach extended her U.S. record with her eighth career Olympic goal – a mark she holds despite missing the Beijing Games with a broken leg – and pushed her international tally to 142, only 16 behind Mia Hamm’s world record.
For most of the year, she has yielded much of the scoring load to youngster Morgan while using both holistic and traditional treatments to treat the nagging Achilles tendinitis that has bothered her for some three years.
“I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline, I’m not quite sure exactly what the reason is, but I’m not going to ask questions at this point,” Wambach said. “I’m just playing pain-free for the first time in a long time.”
New Zealand, ranked 23rd in the world, was making its first appearance in the knockout phase of a major tournament. The Football Ferns have lost nine straight to the U.S., with their only win in the series coming in 1987.