She may not have played, but she still put on a show. A stand-alone WPS record crowd of 15,404 fans turned out to Sahlen’s Stadium on Wednesday night to see Abby Wambach and magicJack fall 3-1 to the Western New York Flash.
Wambach proved to be the talk of the town, receiving a key to the city and getting the royal treatment as fans screamed her name and fought just to get a glimpse of the Pittsford, N.Y. native. But fresh off a 120 minute performance and 1-0 loss in Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final, a trans-Atlantic flight and several interviews in New York City, Wambach was pretty beat-up. Through all that, she had been battling Achilles tendinitis, too.
At halftime Wambach, clad in a magicJack jersey, black shorts and slip-on shoes, addressed the crowd to clarify why she wasn’t playing.
“I’ve never been more proud to be an American in my entire life,” she said over the PA to the crowd of adoring fans. “I know you all came here to watch me play, and I know that some of you will be disappointed that I am not going to, but I must say, this is pretty good soccer right?”
Afterword, Wambach expanded on why she didn’t play.
“I hope I didn’t disappoint too many people tonight,” she said. “My body really needed a rest. My Achilles tendon was way more sore than I was leading on throughout the World Cup, but I think that the (Western) New York Flash put a great performance on tonight.”
That they did. Christine Sinclair scored twice and assisted on McCall Zerboni’s goal to lead the Flash to victory. With the win, Western New York (8-2-2, 26 pts.) is now just one point behind first-place Philadelphia Independence with a game in hand.
Sinclair opened the scoring in just the ninth minute when Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris sent a long kick from inside her goal box to midfield, where the ball was flicked on by Becky Edwards and into the path of the Canadian captain. Sinclair then touched the ball around a stranded Loyden and calmly tucked it into the net to give the Flash an early lead.
But just before halftime, Ella Masar equalized for magicJack. Nikki Washington sent a long ball into the box from the right flank that the Western New York defense allowed to bounce and Masar side volleyed it over the head of Ashlyn Harris. That 41st minute strike was Masar’s third of the season.
That lifeline did not last very long for magicJack. Sinclair proved to be too much for the suddenly slumping Florida team that is now 5-5-1 (15 pts.). She finished a beautiful through ball from Marta in the 51st minute and then set up Zerboni’s header with a perfect cross in the 69th minute.
Western New York still controls its own destiny with a game in hand on Philadelphia.
“For us it was a big game,” Flash Head Coach Aaran Lines said. “We kind of closed the door on magicJack a little bit as well and opened up a gap. Obviously we knew that.”