NEW YORK, December 17 – American Abby Wambach, whose 184 goals make her the top scorer in international football history, retired with a bang on Wednesday, saying the US Soccer Federation should fire men’s coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
The 35-year-old striker helped the Americans win this year’s Women’s World Cup.
Her comments on Klinsmann overshadowed her final match, in which the United States fell 1-0 to China in a friendly in New Orleans on Wednesday night.
Honored by US Soccer before the match, Wambach wore the captain’s armband before departing to a standing ovation from the crowd of 32,950 in the 72nd minute.
She handed the armband to Carli Lloyd, then hugged each of her teammates.
“I think it was pretty fitting in that I played 70 minutes and we weren’t able to score a goal,” Wambach told broadcaster Fox Sports.
“It’s like, ‘OK, you know what? It is time to go.’ These younger players have so much to look forward to. I’ve been the blessed one for so many years to be a part of this team.”
US President Barack Obama had already tweeted his congratulations to Wambach before the match — won by a 58th-minute goal from China’s Wang Shuang.
“For the goals you’ve scored and the kids you’ve inspired, you’re the GOAT (Greatest of All Time)!” Obama tweeted.
But it was Wambach’s own controversial comments that defined her farewell.
She even apologized to US Soccer president Sunil Gulati for remarks on a podcast blasting Klinsmann, the man charged with getting the US men to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
– ‘I would fire Jurgen’ -“I would definitely fire Jurgen,” Wambach said.
“Sorry Sunil. Sorry US Soccer, but I don’t think Jurgen and this litmus test on him has worked. He hasn’t really focused, I feel, enough attention on the youth programs. Although he says he has, I don’t think that he has.”
Wambach also took issue with many of the dual citizens that Klinsmann has recruited to the American team, many of them with American and German citizenship.
“The way that he has brought in a bunch of these foreign guys is not something I believe in wholeheartedly,” she said.
“I just think that this experiment that US Soccer has given Jurgen isn’t one that personally I’m into.
“It seems to me there are too many egos in our men’s program right now and the bigger ego of all of them is the one who is leading the charge,” she said.
Gulati told ESPN: “Abby has never been shy of speaking her mind, but today it’s best to celebrate a wonderful career and character.”
Klinsmann has been under pressure lately despite a strong US run to the knockout stages at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The Americans were semi-final losers to Jamaica in the Gold Cup and lost to Mexico when playing for a berth in the Confederations Cup.
Wambach, who has won two Olympic gold medals and was named FIFA 2012 Women’s Player of the Year, argued for women to be paid as well as men for their efforts on the pitch.
“The men get paid way more than the women in soccer, yeah, I understand logically the argument about the ratings and that is more global,” she said.
“But that doesn’t mean that it makes it right. Equality isn’t something that actually costs anything.”