When Abby Wambach joined the U.S. women's national soccer team 12 years ago, her goal was to leave the game better than she found it. And that was quite a goal given that the team she joined included legends such as Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Brandi Chastain and Kristine Lilly.
But Wambach made good on her pledge Thursday, scoring four times in the first half of a 5-0 win over South Korea to become the all-time leading scorer in women's soccer history. Wambach's third score, in the 29th minute, gave her 159 international goals, one more than Mia Hamm.
Wambach, 33, then added another score in first-half stoppage time on an assist from Alex Morgan, who may someday break Wambach's record. Morgan, 23, scored 44 times in her first 66 caps.
"It's surreal to begin with," said Wambach who now has a record 39 multi-goal games, one more than Hamm. "I'm so thankful and my teammates were trying to get me those goals. I can't thank them enough.
"As a competitor you want to be done with the things that put me at the forefront of conversations. This team is too good to be talking about one person."
Hamm quickly released a statement congratulating her former teammate.
"I'm just so proud of her," Hamm said. "She fights for the ball, she's courageous and she never gives up. Her strength and perseverance is what makes her so great and it's what defenders and opposing teams fear.
"From being her teammate early in her career, I know all she ever wanted to do was win and she continues to do that. I'm just glad I got to share 158 with her. It was short but it was fun."
The crowd of 18,961 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., was appreciative as well, honoring Wambach with chants of "Abby, Abby" when she was subbed out in the 58th minute. The win extended the Americans' unbeaten streak to 34 games dating to March 2012 and to 72 games at home. And when Wambach scores a goal the U.S. is 101-2-8 overall.
The U.S. is 8-0-2 this year.