U.S. gives Hamm golden sendoff
Abby Wambach's goal in overtime gave the U.S. a 2-1 win over Brazil.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Mia Hamm knew her final game wasn't her best -- that her teammates deserved the credit for the gold medal around her neck.
"They carried me tonight, that's for sure," Hamm said.
So be it. After all, for most of the last 17 years, Hamm has carried women's soccer.
Hamm left the game as a winner Thursday night, receiving her second gold medal to go with her two World Cup titles. The United States defeated Brazil, 2-1, in overtime, a victory led by two goals from a next generation determined to give Hamm and her fellow vets a proper send-off.
"We wanted to send them out on top," said Lindsay Tarpley, who scored in the first half. "They've done so much for the women's game. To be able to win gold when some of them are retiring -- it's a great night."
The game marked the final competitive appearance together for the Fab Five, the remaining players from the first World Cup championship team in 1991. The five helped bring their sport to national prominence and captured the country's imagination by winning the World Cup in 1999, and together they have played in 1,230 international matches.
Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett are retiring from the national team, leaving Kristine Lilly and Brandi Chastain as the last of the old guard. There will be one final curtain call, however: U.S. soccer announced a 10-game "Fan Celebration Tour" for this fall, starting Sept. 25 against Iceland in Rochester, N.Y. Other dates and cities will be announced later.
"I'd love to participate in several," Hamm said. "I don't know if I can do 10."
Hamm's immediate plans are to enjoy the final three days of the Olympics and march with the team including the closing ceremony. Then it's off to Chicago, where she will root for her husband, Cubs shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, whose team is battling for a wild card playoff spot.
Wambach scores clincher
Abby Wambach, the player who might break Hamm's records one day, scored the game-winning goal in the 112th minute with a powerful 10-yard header off a corner kick from Lilly. It was Wambach's fourth goal of the Athens Games and 18th in her last 20 games.
"It's the least we can do for the women who have meant so much to us," Wambach said.
The retiring players left happy with the final result, but the game itself showed why it was time for them to hang it up.
Maybe they were trying too hard, but the Americans were slower, less organized, less creative and lost the chase to most of the loose balls against the young Brazilians, who weren't afraid to shove the U.S. around.
Pretinha scored for Brazil in the 73rd, and the Brazilians twice hit the post later in regulation, coming within inches of what would have been the winning goal.
"We were bending, but we weren't breaking," U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry said. "They were throwing the kitchen sink at us, but I knew we had the heart to win it."
To the rescue
The U.S. team was rescued by Wambach's game-winner, some great saves from Scurry and Tarpley's goal in the 39th minute.
When the final whistle blew, Hamm was quickly swarmed by all 17 teammates. The team then took a victory lap, waving flags to the crowd of 10,416 at Karaiskaki Stadium.
Hamm clenched her fists under her chin and looked to the sky with teary eyes after arriving behind the podium for the medal ceremony. She blew a kiss to the crowd when her name was announced.
Brazil received its first women's soccer medal after finishing fourth at the last two Olympics. Germany, which beat Sweden 1-0 in the third-place game, took the bronze.