Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Boca Raton, Fla. — The U.S. Women’s National Team capped off their golden year in style.
The U.S. finished a busy 2012 and their Fan Tribute Tour after ousting China, 4-1, behind two goals from Abby Wambach at FAU Stadium on Saturday night. Megan Rapinoe netted the winner in the game on a shot from 40 yards and Sydney Leroux also found the back of the net for the Americans, who improved to 8-0-2 on the tour with a strong performance in front of a crowd of 10,493.
“You never know what you miss until maybe you come after a long absence,” said Wambach, who played for the now-defunct, Boca Raton-based Magicjack team of WPS. “This has been a really great year and everyone’s really happy.”
Wambach scored her goals on each side of halftime, heading home crosses from Morgan and Rapinoe in the 18th and 64th minutes, respectively. The goals gave Wambach 152 in her career, putting the veteran striker six shy of Mia Hamm’s record for most international goals all-time.
Sandwiched in between Wambach’s goals was the winning strike from Rapinoe in the 36th minute. A poor backpass from China led to a hurried clearance by goalkeeper Wang Fei well off her line and it fell to Rapinoe, who then shot the ball from distance into the open net.
“As soon as it came off, I knew it was going in because I didn’t hit it that hard, wasn’t swerving,” said Rapinoe. “I hit it kind of right down the center, so it felt good as soon as it came off.”
China made things interesting when Han Peng turned Amy LePeilbet inside out before rifling a low shot to the far corner past a helpless Hope Solo, but the U.S. again took a two-goal lead through Wambach’s second headed finish just after the hour-mark.
Leroux capped the scoring three minutes from the final whistle, heading home a Heather Mitts cross to put an exclamation point on a successful 2012.
“This year has been the most amazing year of my life,” said Leroux. “I have teammates who have turned into some of my best friends and it’s been an emotional year and a great year. We’re ready to see our families but we’ve been together pretty much for a year straight, so I’m so happy to end on such a good note.”
The Americans are set to return to the field on Feb. 9 when they host Scotland at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. for the first game under new head coach Tom Sermanni.