“All it takes is one!”
We were in the final minutes of overtime — injury time, actually — in the quarterfinal game of the 2011 World Cup, and we were losing to Brazil, 2-1. We had been playing for nearly an hour with 10 players. The clock was just ticking away. It felt like at any moment, the referee was going to blow the final whistle. You could feel questions creeping into everyone’s mind: “Could this really be it? Is our time over?”
Then we heard Abby scream it again, yelling across the field at all of us. “It only takes one shot! One chance! All it takes is one!”
The ball was deep in our end of the field. We won it off a Brazilian player and the ball got played up to Carli Lloyd. Carli beat a couple of defenders and pushed it up to Megan Rapinoe. And then Pinoe just hoofed the ball across the field. It didn’t even seem like she looked for Abby. She just knew that Abby would be there. It was an incredible ball.
Then Abby Wambach came out of nowhere, and in that moment, she carried the game on her shoulders. She made what happened next look easy — like it was meant to be — heading the ball right past the goalkeeper, and suddenly, we were alive, 2-2.
I look back at the photos and film of that moment, and I just laugh at myself. I’m supposed to be cool and edgy, and right after Abby scored, I’m jumping up and down like a little girl. My arms are going in every direction. My legs are going up and down. And all we’d done at that point was tie the game.
In the penalty shootout that followed, I went the wrong way in the first two rounds. I tried to stay focused and not let it get to me — it was just part of the game. Abby’s words kept replaying in my mind: “All it takes is one.” And as I waited for my chance to defend the third penalty kick, I just kind of gazed up into the stands, into our team’s friends and family section. Right at that moment, someone held up a single finger and mouthed to me, “It just takes one.”
When the next shooter for Brazil came up — I won’t say I knew where she was going, but I did feel it a little bit. I made the save, our last two kickers buried their shots, and we won the game. In the celebration that followed, Abby and I found each other and embraced. We both knew everything that it had taken to get to that point. The ups, the downs, the hardships — not just in that tournament, but throughout our time together on the U.S. team. It all came together in that moment of history: pure joy and happiness.
Abby and I met back in 2001 at a camp for the United States U-21 team. We were roommates, and when I think back to how we were back then, I can’t help but laugh out loud. I was some kind of mix of tomboy and preppy. Abby wore hats, t-shirts, baggy jeans and board shorts. I was quiet almost to the point of being timid. She was blunt and loud. We mostly related to each other on the field. She was a really good college player, strong in a way that was unlike anyone who had come before her. You could see all of the potential she had.
Years would pass until we really connected off the field. It began in 2008. Abby broke her leg a month before we were going to play in the Olympics. She was stuck at home, and it was a really tough time for her. She wrote me this incredible letter. I don’t want to share the specifics of what she wrote, but the gist of it was that she respected me and my ability as a goalkeeper. There was no one else she wanted on the field, she said, because she knew I’d do what it took to win.
It was a step forward for us, toward our new friendship and bond.
When she returned from her injury to the national team, we started having breakfast together regularly, almost every day. It wasn’t anything we planned. I don’t like my mornings to be rushed. I like to eat well before the team trains, so I was always one of the first at breakfast. So was Abby. She’d be doing a crossword or reading the newspaper, and having coffee. So we sat at the same table on those mornings, and slowly, we got to know each other, one-on-one.
We would never have become friends without those breakfasts. I’m really an introvert, a little bit on the shy side. Abby is an extrovert. Everyone always winds up listening to her stories at team dinners because she tells them in a way that only she can, and because everybody can hear her talking from a mile away. It’s hilarious. That’s Abby.
Neither of us opens up easily. But during our breakfasts, we’d read the paper, and talk about what was going on in the world. And as we started sharing beliefs and philosophies, we actually realized that we viewed a lot of things the same way. We shared a lot of interests. Both of us love the idea of living simply and being free, of camping and being outdoors. We both read a ton of books, and love learning about new things.
Abby also tries to see things from different perspectives, which I really have come to value. I first joined the national team at a very young age. I had very specific ideas of what a woman was supposed to be like, and how you were supposed to act. I really credit Abby with breaking down some of my misconceptions about womanhood. Breaking down barriers that women face athletically and professionally is something that Abby and I continue to do together. It’s some of our most vital work, and something we’re both extremely passionate about. We don’t necessarily agree on how to implement reform, but we both know that change is needed to progress.
Ultimately, there’s a realness about Abby, and a realness about me. That’s where we really connected at a core level. It was awesome. What started as mutual respect grew into a friendship that carries the most valuable qualities you can have in a friend, and for that matter, a teammate: the trust to always tell each other the truth even if we don’t want to hear it, and the trust that we will always be there for each other when we need each other most. She has become a tremendous friend. She is a free spirit with the biggest heart. In some of my hardest moments, I’ve gone to her, and in some of hers, she’s come to me. We’ve talked about our marriages, and our struggles in life. We’re very strong women who have an understanding of many different areas in life because of our experiences. We both know that life isn’t easy. There’s a great amount of respect for one another. It’s really touching to me to know that I can always go to her, and I know she feels the same way.
Abby is an incredible leader, and she leads us in so many ways. In the World Cup, a huge number of goals — and a lot of game-winning goals — are scored on set pieces, either corner kicks or free kicks. There is nobody on any team for any country who is as good as Abby is on set pieces. And I don’t just mean offensively. Everybody is 100 percent more comfortable with Abby on the field defensively when there are set pieces, too. No one really speaks about how important that role is. But I feel a great connection to Abby every game because she’s a huge defensive component for us, too. On corner kicks, she’s the center of our defensive zone, and it usually comes down to her. I trust her 100 percent in that role. Whether we’re on offense or defense, our spacing and timing are different if she’s not on the field for set pieces.
Abby is also always the one who’s at the center of our circle, firing everyone up with her pregame speeches. She’s super intense. What’s funny, though — in a really endearing way — is that every so often, Abby gets so excited and amped up that she can’t get the words out. People start making eye contact and smiling across the huddle, and then someone lets out a laugh, and then we all start cracking up, Abby included. And in its own way, it cuts the tension before the game, and everyone feels calm and ready to play.
But more than anything, Abby makes things happen, which is kind of what you’d expect from the leading international goal scorer in the history of soccer, men and women. It doesn’t matter if she has a rod in her leg. It doesn’t matter if she’s in pain or has stitches or staples in her head from hitting heads with another player. It doesn’t really matter how she’s feeling on that particular day. Abby thrives under pressure, and whenever we have needed her in the past, she has been there. Once this World Cup begins in Canada, she will be there for us again.
And just having someone like that on our team inspires all of us. Because when everything is on the line, when the final minutes of a game are ticking away and hope seems lost, when the only thing that can save us is a miracle, we know.
All it takes is one more chance. All it takes is one more shot. All it takes is one.