The road ends on Wednesday for Abby Wambach. After 254 caps, after an all-time record 184 international goals, after one World Cup title and two Olympic gold medals, Wambach will call it a career when the U.S. meets China in a friendly in New Orleans (8 p.m. ET, FS1).
And yet a few things came in loud and clear in the far-ranging conversation I had with Wambach for the new SI Planet Fútbol podcast. One of them is that she thinks her road is only beginning. Wambach does not plan to disappear from the public discussion after the final whistle blows in New Orleans. In fact, she’s making it her mission to fight for equality in a way that she did not during her playing career.
“I want to be passionate about what I do next,” Wambach says in the interview, which will be released in full Wednesday (we played a portion of the interview last week, and you can listen to that here). “Since I retired I’ve felt the inequalities that I allowed to happen to me throughout my career—and when you’re in it, it’s harder to see and feel the disparity, and there’s a lot of fear that goes on, which is probably why you can’t see it so clearly. I think stepping away and getting more perspective has allowed me to see more clearly what really needs to happen.”
“To be quite honest, I’ve been getting a little bit mad at myself for not fighting more while I was in it,” she continues. “I kind of promised myself I’d do whatever I can at this point to make sure this next generation of studs that hangs their cleats up is going to feel differently about their retirement than I do. I want them to have more choices and options than I do.
“When I look across the aisle, I’m pretty sure Landon Donovan isn’t stressing or worrying about his financial position. For me, not to sound crazy or egocentric, but to have the resume I have and because I’m a female changes completely the landscape of the opportunities of what I’ll be able to do when I’m done playing, quite frankly I’m going to make it my mission: I’m going to change the world so that no woman who has done the things I’ve been able to do or have the course of the career I’ve had will have to make the same decisions.
“Somebody has to make equality real and happen. I know it’s a huge undertaking. And I know saying the words changing the world is such an arbitrary thing. How are you going to do that? I know all these questions will come. But I’m just going to do it.”
This isn’t your typical “walk off into the sunset” retirement talk. And that’s refreshing, even if it makes some people feel a little uncomfortable. In fact, that’s precisely the point. Wambach says she’s looking forward to ending her playing career on a high note Wednesday before adoring fans and teammates, but she also has reached a point where she believes she can help create the change she wants to see for women, both inside and outside the sports world.
I’m fired up to see what she can do with her bully pulpit.
Now let's open up the ‘Bag….
Where is Jordan Morris going?
That’s one of the big questions in U.S. soccer right now in the wake of Stanford’s NCAA title run on the back of Morris (who had two goals in the final). The Seattle Sounders have offered Morris a lucrative homegrown contract, and there are reports that at least one Bundesliga team has also made him an offer. Most people expect Morris to leave Stanford now, and if I had to pick I think he’ll choose Seattle, but that’s by no means guaranteed.
We may learn how much influence is coming from U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who presumably would prefer to see Morris land in Germany.
Do you think Rafa Benitez will be at Real Madrid until the end of the season?
The best thing to say is that I don’t expect Benítez to be the Real Madrid manager next season. Either club president Florentino Pérez will fire him, or Pérez himself will have to call an early election and will end up losing, with his replacement axing Benítez. The chemistry just hasn’t been good all season since Benítez took over, and you’re left wondering at times if Benítez is even calling all the shots when it comes to naming his lineups.
Why not move MLS Cup back a week to the Saturday after conference championship games in college football? Little competition except Army-Navy game.
There’s a lot of talk about moving the MLS Cup final date after the less-than-stellar national TV audience for Columbus-Portland last week. Personally, I’d be fine with either a Tuesday night final or one on the Army-Navy Saturday. You’re always going to run the risk of playing in bitterly cold weather if you have your final in December, but that will only happen so often, and even when it did in Kansas City the final was still well-attended and memorable.
Going up head-to-head against Big Football on an NFL Sunday is almost guaranteed to limit viewership.
Your favorite K.C. Comet?
Your take on Carli Lloyd's goal not making the Puskas Award shortlist?
Do I think it’s ridiculous that a goal from the halfway line in the World Cup final isn’t considered one of the top three goals of the year worldwide? Yes, yes I do. But while FIFA shafts women’s soccer in many ways, Lloyd’s snub from the Puskas Award isn’t one of them. The award comes from a global fan vote. We all know that global fan votes tend to devolve into nonsense, so FIFA deserves some criticism for that choice, at least.
What does Jason Kreis do?
My guess is you don’t mean this in a literal sense, as in, "What does Jason Kreis do with his days right now?" So I’ll take the question as: What does he do next career-wise? Clearly, Kreis will be the first candidate mentioned whenever an MLS job opens up in 2016. And a lot of them could open up, judging from how many votes of confidence were needed by MLS coaches at the end of 2015. Here are just a few: Colorado, Orlando, Toronto, Philadelphia, Salt Lake and Seattle.
Then there are questions about just how much longer Bruce Arena wants to stay as the coach in L.A. Kreis already has good relationships with hiring guys in Seattle (Garth Lagerwey), L.A. (Chris Klein) and Toronto (Bill Manning). One place I don’t think he would be interested in is Atlanta. Running an expansion team didn’t seem like much for Kreis at NYCFC.
What team is getting Carlos Vela?
If MLS finds a way to land Vela—which isn’t guaranteed with MLS and Real Sociedad far apart on a transfer fee—my predicted destinations would be (in order): Chicago, Colorado, San Jose.
Any surprises you could see in the knockout round of Champions League?
I think PSV is capable of upsetting Atlético Madrid, and Chelsea might find a way to upset PSG.
MLS/FIFA schedule alignment. Anything beyond a snowball's chance?
I think you’ll see MLS start to take off a few more FIFA dates. But if you’re talking about MLS changing its calendar to fall-spring, that’s a non-starter. Just won’t happen.