By Ashley Wadsworth
For the U.S. women’s national soccer team 2015 was undoubtedly a successful year. When President Obama congratulated the women after their World Cup win and said, “Playing like a girl means you’re a badass,” I couldn’t help but vehemently nod my head in agreement. So when I saw the schedule for the team’s World Cup Victory Tour and saw their final game would be played at the Superdome in my hometown, New Orleans, I immediately messaged my friend to begin our planning. I’d be seeing these badass women in person along with all my American Outlaws family.
The match in New Orleans was my second game with the American Outlaws. My first was in San Antonio watching the men’s team win (dos a cero!) against Mexico last April–the perfect induction if I do say so myself. This would be my first time seeing the women’s team play. It was my friend’s first time seeing either of our national teams play, her first AO experience (aside from 2014 World Cup watch parties), and I was beyond pumped to introduce her to the atmosphere of it all.
Although I’m sure the fans were excited about the game in general, one topic was clearly on everyone’s minds: Abby Wambach’s final game. Much has been written about Abby since her announcement to retire, from her incredibly impressive stats and achievements to heartfelt words penned by family, friends, and teammates who know her best. It was clear that everyone in attendance that night was touched by her in some sort of way. As cliche as it sounds, being there felt like being part of something. Growing up a soccer player Abby was certainly a player whose name I knew and I idolized her. Seeing young girls in the Dome wearing her jersey and holding up signs of gratitude shows how long she’s been in the game. There’s a generational gap yet she still has reach and impact on young players.
The single moment of the game that stood out the most to me was when she was substituted in the 72nd minute. She took her cleats off then walked around the field hugging each player. That gesture of removing her cleats felt so final. It’s like coming home from a long day of work and taking your pants off. It made it real.
Sure, ultimately we lost the game, but it didn’t feel like it, at least not to me. This was all about saying farewell to Abby. The AO section made this known with our relentless chanting. The longing for her to score was palpable. Who doesn’t want that perfect movie ending? We all wanted it for Abby, and she wanted it for us. There’s a kind of symbiotic relationship that exists between herself and the fans. Her presence alone ignites this hunger, this drive inside you that gets you amped and it’s something I’ll miss now that she’s gone. Postgame, fans lingered and a short video about Abby was broadcasted on the big screens. Abby watched with her arms wrapped around her teammates. She followed up with a short but emotional speech ending with perfect Abby flare, a mic drop.