Tuesday, Aug. 21 at 1 p.m. ET
U.S. Women's Soccer
Tuesday, August 21, 2007; 1:00 PM
Abby Wambach of the U.S. Women's Soccer team was online Tuesday, Aug. 21 at 1 p.m. ET to take your questions about the team, as it prepares for the Women's World Cup next month in China.
A transcript follows.
Wambach has scored 11 goals so far this year to lead the team. She has 77 career international goals in 95 games and averages a goal for every 90 minutes she plays for the USA, the best strike rate in U.S. history.
Wambach played on the 2003 World Cup team, and scored the winning goal in the 2004 Olympic final against Brazil, to help the U.S. team win a gold medal. She was also a star player for the WUSA's Washington Freedom.
Alexandria, Va.: Over the past three years the USA has beaten almost every top side in the world, with the only setback a PSO loss to Germany. Who did you regard as your greatest competition in the upcoming World Cup?
Abby Wambach: I would think that Germany and Brazil and Sweden and North Korea. We have a lot of stiff competition going into this cup. But I think probably Brazil and Germany.
Falls Church, Va.: My comment: I was a season ticket holder for the Freedom for three years and I am still an admirer of how you play with such passion for the game and so much love for your teammates. It is one of the traits I find most appealing about you and the entire national team.
My question: How do you deal with the mental aspect of physical play, both in how you try to dominate opponents and in how they bang you around so much?
Abby Wambach: I think there's a bunch of things that go into that question. For me, I go out there with the notion that I'm going to give the most effort every time I step on the field, and that's often more than other teams can bring.
We train for it, we prepare our bodies every day on the field for it.
Arlington, Va.: Hey! Look forward to the article tomorrow. This is a discussion I've had with many other people, and I'm curious as to what you think.
If the Women's National Team played as a team in MLS, where would it rank? Would it be a playoff team?
Abby Wambach: Comparing men's and women's sports is like comparing apples and oranges. Men are much more physical and faster than women. Having said that, does that mean skill-wise, we can't be as good? No. But I don't think we would be as good as an MLS team.
Freedom Fan: What's you reaction to the Beckham mania? Do you think the fans that come to his games will come back? How can the Women's team try to use his presence to grow their own fan base and help support the revival of a women's pro league?
Abby Wambach: I think that David Beckham is doing something that maybe no one else in the world could do. He's one of the most well-known faces in the world, so for him to come to the MLS is great for soccer in the U.S. I don't know what his impact will be on the women's game, but I think the more publicity soccer gets overall, the better off we will be.
Rockville, Md.: Hi,
Thanks for chatting today. I have HBO and "Dare to Dream "seems to be shown at least once a week. Each time I watch some of it, I still get struck about how difficult it was for U.S. Women's Soccer to get recognition and respect.
Do you think the general attitude has improved or in a holding pattern?
Thanks and good luck.
Abby Wambach: I think that what "Dare to Dream" and the women on past teams did was set up a foundation for the future. We're seeing that turnover now. I feel very strongly that this team is equal or even better to teams of the past, and I think Mia and Julie would be the first to say it. Because in the long-run, it's where we end up in 15 years, not where we are when they retired. What they did though was give us the foundation and the skills to succeed beyond them.
Rockville, Md.: Abby, thanks for two great seasons with the Freedom! If a professional women's league is resurrected in the U.S., would you choose (or be "assigned") to play in Washington again?
Abby Wambach: Well, that's a good question. At this point, our focus is the World Cup, but a professional league is obviously a good thing, something we've had an eye on since WUSA folded. Of course I would love to play in D.C., but who knows how that will play out, if there will be allocation, or a draft or what.
Arlington, Va.: What is the ring you wear all taped up during games? Does it have special meaning?
Abby Wambach: Yeah, it does have special meaning. It means that I carry the people that I love with me onto the field.
Chevy Chase, Md.: What are the key lessons/experiences you took away from playing with Mia Hamm on the Freedom?
Abby Wambach: I took away being the person that can score goals, and I took away a lot of responsibility, I took away the technical aspects of the game, I took away just the sheer responsibility of what her game entailed. I think the biggest thing was just to understand what all goes into being someone like her.
Pacifica, Calif.: I was wondering if you have any ideas why, with so many kids playing soccer at the youth level in this country, so many of them stop playing in their early teens?
One idea is that when young there is less emphasis on developing the basic fundamentals of the game and more stress placed on using pure physical attributes to excel. Perhaps less emphasis should be placed on winning at any costs and more on becoming excellent soccer players.
Thanks and best of luck in the World Cup.
Abby Wambach: I think that the reason people go in a different direction in high school is it becomes very difficult. Soccer isn't an easy sport, and when you're younger you can run all day, but as you get older, you have to concentrate on your fitness. The older you get, the more difficult it gets, and tougher the competition gets.
Chevy Chase, Maryland: When you were a kid did you always know that you wanted to play professional soccer?
By the way you are my favorite player!!!
Abby Wambach: I didn't know that I was going to play soccer, because there wasn't an avenue at that point to play soccer. There was a national time, but I didn't think that was a possibility. So I think for the younger players out there these days, we're giving them the opportunity to dream about being in our position, and the better and stronger we get, the better we'll be down the line.
Still a Freedom Fan: Julie Foudy said, before the Australian friednly, that defenders have taken to just kicking you to slow you down. Is this true (the Australians, to their credit, did not do this)? Also, if and when the new league starts next year will you be back with Freedom?
Abby Wambach: I do think that some teams tend to be more rough with me because of my physical stature. And is that something I would do if I were them? Absolutely. I don't hold it against teams, it's a way to knock me off the ball, get me off my game. When you play against someone bigger than you are, you aren't going to get as many fouls as against someone your own size.
I think that I just have to play my game; I can't get all hung up on what other teams are trying to do to get me off of mine, because if I do, the win. I just try to focus on the things I can control and go from there.
Fallon, Mont.: The hits you receive from opposing teams (e.g. China) look so brutal. What helps you endure the pain in order to get back up and continue playing? (You make it look easy). How do you recover? What postgame treatments and/or methods do you use for recovery?
I am a 49-year-old female who admires you tremendously. You are an inspiration!
Abby Wambach: I don't know what gets me up. I think the reason that I don't want to worry my parents if they're watching the game, mostly. Mentality wise, I think it's another thing you can use for you and against your opponent. It's demoralizing when your opponent is always getting up.
Sometimes after the game, I'll be tired and sore, but that doesn't usually last too long. I try to deal with it -- we have a massage therapist on the team, and that's always great. It really helps us recover our legs.
Washington, D.C.: How closely do you (and your USA teammates) follow the developments in the (oft-delayed) future launch of a women's professional soccer league? Are any of you actively involved in the new league's planning process? What can you tell us about the most recent developments?
Abby Wambach: A lot of us are involved with the opperations that have gone on since the folding of the league. This is a sensative topic and something that shouldn't be rushed. We want to do it properly this time. I know it's frustrating for fans (and players) but we want to make sure that this league, whatever we call it, will be strong and will last.
Kingston, PA: Does the team anticipate health concerns by playing in Beijing due to the high levels of pollution in the city? Is there any way the team prepares for that kind of environment?
Abby Wambach: US Soccer has gone to the most extensive means they can go -- we're not worried about our health in China. Our biggest concern is the food, and being able to be "fueled" for games. the more comfortable we can be, the better off we'll play. US Soccer has gone to great efforts to put us in Westernized hotels, to bring over board games and DVDs, to make us comfortable while we are there. But we don't think the environment will be a factor in us winning.
Womens' Teams in England: Have you or any of the USWNT ever considered playing for any of the womens' leagues in England? Arsenal, for example, won the womens' FA Cup last year.
Abby Wambach: I think a few of us have had offers from English teams, but what we've found is that U.S. Soccer pays us enough and gives us enough that we don't have to go over there. It makes more sense to be in our own markets, to market ourselves and to do clinics and whatnot. When we're in a residency period, it makes it difficult to go over and do one of these.
Silver Spring, Maryland: The U.S. college game and the promise of D-1 scholarships really drives so much of the girls/womens club focus ie. getting into the best tournaments, being seen by the top coaches etc. Is this system sustainable long term and if the women's professional league starts up again, will there be any alternatives to the NCAA game?
Abby Wambach: I do think that it's hard, all around it's hard to play in the WUSA. What I found was that the WUSA was an avenue for me to play on the U.S. team. There are so many scholarships available now, because of Title IX, you have an opportunity to get an education, to play a sport, to compete for a championship, and then have the opportunity to play on a pro team, depending on how good you are.
Tucson, AZ: Hey Abby, many long-term fans of the women's team are more than a little frustrated with the Federation's lack of energy, shall we say, when it comes to promoting the team. And the marketing efforts that are there seem very narrowly focused on a specific type of player that appeals to a specific demographic. What direction would you like to see the marketing take to reach a broader spectrum of fans and draw in people?
Abby Wambach: A lot of that stuff isn't in our control. Do I wish U.S. Soccer marketed the Women's side more? Yes, but every pro athlete wants more marketing, because it's an important tool to developing the sport and getting more fans in the seats. So I think the marketing strategies could be different, but from U.S. Soccer's standpoint, I think with the World Cup, they'll see that promoting us is a good thing.
annandale dude: Abby,
if someone mouths off to you, will you head butt them?
or is that too much of a cliche now?
Abby Wambach: I would def. say that's something that will never happen -- I will never do that to anybody. I did just read what was said to Zidane, and if someone said that about my sister, who knows what will happen, but in that environment, playing for the World Cup, especially if you're a Zidane type, you have to keep your cool.
Rockville, Md.: How concerned are you that the U.S. doesn't (either by choice or opportunity) get to play in many friendlies against top 5 teams leading up to the World Cup?
Abby Wambach: I think that's more strategic, and I think a lot of that has to do with them not wanting to play us. You have to sign contracts, you have to sign leases. We play a lot of our matches in the first two tournaments of the year. This past year we had a long run because we had to qualify. But we've played these teams, so it's not like there's something new. And in all honesty, Norway, Japan, New Zealand, they're all World Cup teams we've faced. And, for us, practice is some of the best competition we'll ever face, in all honesty.
Abby Wambach: Having lived in Northern Virginia and the DC area, I've always appreciate and had a special place in my heart for all Washingtonians, and I think a lot of my success came from my growth as a player and my acceptance from the fans while on the Freedom. I thank you all for talking to me today, and I'm hoping to help my team bring home the World Cup.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.