I will always be able to say that I saw it. I will always be able to say that I saw it with my son. I will always be able to say that on July 10, 2011, I saw Abby Wambach deliver the greatest goal in United States Women’s Soccer history. For that matter, one of the greatest goals in United States history.
It was also one of the greatest athletic events that I have ever witnessed.
The United States women’s soccer team played their World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil this morning, and into the early afternoon, and from the outset, it looked like the Americans had the upper hand. A second minute own goal from Brazil’s Daiane gave the Americans a 1-0 lead that they held throughout the first half, despite fierce challenges from a faster Brazil squad. However, once the second half began, it was clear that Brazil was on the offensive, and the weaker US backline struggled against the Brazilian attack in the half’s first 10-15 minutes. Then, in the game’s 65th minute, Rachel Buehler took down Brazil’s legend Marta in the box to set up a penalty kick, and led the referee to issue a red card to Buehler. With Buehler gone, beautiful American keep Hope Solo saved a penalty shot from Brazil’s Cristiane and kept the US up 1-0. Or so it seemed.
For some unknown reason, the referee disallowed the save, deemed Solo to have come off of her line, and awarded Brazil a second attempt at the penalty. This time, Marta drilled it home.
Controversial or not, the Americans were down a player for the final 25 minutes plus extra time, and were now drawn with Brazil. The score remained the same, as the United States played, in this observer’s opinion, some of the best soccer I have ever seen, down a player. In the game’s first 15 minute extra stanza, Marta was able to put in a lucky, and boy do I mean lucky, shot two minutes in for a 2-1 Brazilian lead. And it stayed that way.
Until two minutes into extra time following the second 15 minute stanza. Leading up to that is when I witnessed one of the greatest athletic exhibitions I have ever seen. Down a player, the United States attacked Brazil, and eventually were able to penetrate their suspect defense when Megan Rapinoe delivered the prettiest cross I have ever seen to a waiting Abby Wambach, as Brazilian goalkeeper, Andreia, came off of her line in an attempt to punch the ball. She missed.
Abby headed the ball into the back of the net for the sudden death equalizer, and moved the US from the brink of elimination, to a penalty shootout, to determine who went to the semi-finals.
In the penalty shootout, Hope Solo delivered a beautiful save on a Daiane shot as the American women converted all five of their chances to advance to the semifinals against a tough, fast France squad.
All told, this game was a perfect example of American will and determination, against the greatest of odds. Anyone who knows anything about soccer knows that Abby Wambach’s goal was a miracle, and should go down as one of the greatest scores in American sports history. And for those that missed it….here it is. Enjoy