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VANCOUVER — Carli Lloyd knew what to do when Abby Wambach stepped onto the field for her last World Cup game ever.
It was the 79th minute and the United States had all but won it with a secure 5-2 lead as Wambach came on for Tobin Heath. That’s when Lloyd, who had scored three goals in the first 16 minutes, took off her captain’s armband and gave it to Wambach.
Lloyd had never officially been named the U.S. captain, but with Wambach and Christie Rampone not playing as much this tournament, she happily embraced the role. Wambach has often spoke about this year being her last World Cup and in her final match, Lloyd felt strongly she should finish as captain.
“It’s been an honor for me to take on that leadership, to wear the armband. I have no regrets ever when I put that thing on, put on the jersey,” Lloyd said. “When Abby has come on in a few of the games it’s just a little crazy to switch the armband, but I wanted to make sure she put the armband on because she deserves it. She has been legendary to this team. She’s been unbelievable. I’m so thankful I can call her my friend, my teammate, and I’m just so proud her last World Cup she could go out strong.”
Wambach didn’t know Lloyd was going to do this, but it was a powerful exchange between players who have come long way together.
When Lloyd first joined the national team, she wasn’t afraid or intimidated by anybody, and recalls a 5-on-5 scrimmage where she didn’t hesitate getting into it with Wambach.
“I was young and she’s this veteran and she yelled at me and I yelled back,” Lloyd said, smiling. “I think over the years we’ve really gained a tremendous amount of respect for one another. I would say I’m pretty close with Abby and I share a lot of things with her. She’s always coming up to me and encouraging me, giving me the confidence and I’ll be straight up with her and say, ‘Look, Abby, this has gotta be better.’ And she’s like sure. And vice versa.
“She’s a tremendous champion. She’s a competitor. She’s inspiring. I’ve loved playing with her every second.”
Wambach was touched by Lloyd’s gesture. It was the perfect way to pay respect and finish a journey.
“She insisted and I thought it was really special,” Wambach said. “A little bit of a reverse passing of the torch, so to speak. Carli’s got this team.”
“I’ve been on this team for 19 years and it was pretty amazing, but also to do it alongside Abby,” Rampone said. “After the game she put (the armband) around me and I embraced it and I was like, we’re gonna do this together. They told me I was the last one in line and I was like no way, Abby you’re doing this with me.
“And we raised it together. And that’s how it should be.”