- Last Updated: 5:30 PM, August 3, 2012
- Posted: 3:38 PM, August 3, 2012
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 medallists, who will play Canada match 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 coach Tony Readings called Wambach “a nightmare,” and the sight of the 5-foot-11 veteran battling multiple defenders and picking herself up off the ground has become so commonplace that her teammates hardly notice.
“Oh, we turn a blind eye to all of her bumps and bruises,” goalkeeper Solo said. “She hits the floor, she hits the ground, it doesn’t even faze us any more because she’s tough. She might be hurting, but she’s mentally tough. She has more of a lion and a passion inside that nothing will stop her, and she’ll find a way to win. It rubs off on everybody.
“But maybe we should probably go up to her and say, ’Abby, you OK?’” Solo added with a laugh. “But we just ignore it.”
Wambach’s scoring spurt is remarkable given all the attention she draws from the opposition. Even though her speed isn’t what it used to be, she’s still one of the strongest players in the game and is unmatched in the air — yet three of her four goals at the Olympics have come with her feet.Follow @NYPostsports