GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Abby Wambach wasted no time accomplishing the inevitable.
“Which was awesome,” Florida soccer coach Becky Burleigh said late Thursday night from New Jersey. “Her mother was so nervous.”
Burleigh was with a handful of Wambach’s family members when the former Gators star scored four goals -- all in the first half -- in the USA’s 5-0 exhibition win over South Korea to become the all-time scoring leader in women’s international soccer.
Wambach entered the game needing two goals to pull even with icon Mia Hamm, who scored 158 goals during her 275-game career before retiring in 2004. Wambach, who helped lead the Gators to the 1998 NCAA title, needed just 29 minutes to pass Hamm, with the record-setting 159th coming on a line-drive header off a corner kick from teammate Megan Rapinoe.
As the ball hit the back of the net, Wambach wheeled and ran toward the U.S. bench, with Rapinoe leaping into her arms as the rest of the team poured onto the field.
From her seat among the sold-out crowd of nearly 19,000 at Red Bull Arena, Burleigh began exchanging hugs with Wambach’s parents and family members, most of them from Rochester, N.Y.
“It was pretty amazing,” Burleigh said.
Wambach, 33, scored her fourth goal on a tap-in later in the half, giving her 160 in 207 career international games.
“Her goals were classic Abby. Headers, powers, just tremendous to watch,” Burleigh said. “She has a skill set that sets her apart from everyone. She plays so aggressively and so powerfully in the air. ... It’s just a unique trait. I was talking to her older sister, who said that’s what happens when you’re the youngest. You get beat up and that brings out toughness.”
Ultimately, it brought out greatness.
Gator greatness gone global.
“It was a special night,” Wambach told reporters after the game. “My teammates know me super well and at halftime they said, ‘You’re such an extremist. You are all or nothing. When you want to do something, you just go do it.’ ”