Remarkable night, remarkable careers
CARSON, Calif. -- The security guards were trying to hustle Mia Hamm off the field, but she was having none of it. Making a U-turn, Hamm headed directly to a group of young fans seated in the stands who were screaming for her autograph.
"We all understand there's a bigger perspective," she said. "We want to make sure this game and these girls go forward together."
Hamm and Julie Foudy closed out their remarkable careers with the U.S. women's soccer team in style Wednesday night, cheered on by droves of young girls in a 5-0 victory over Mexico.
"It's hard to believe that it's over. Julie was crying, I'm crying," Hamm said. "I'm extremely blessed."
Foudy said it really hit her that it was her last game in a U.S. uniform as she walked down the tunnel before the game.
"It was a special night," she said. "I was thinking that this was the last time I will hear the national anthem before I go out on the field."
Hamm, the leading all-time scorer for the American women, assisted on the first two goals in the friendly match against the Mexican national team.
Foudy, meanwhile, played her usual dominating role in the midfield.
Hamm, 32, and Foudy, 33, took the field for the last time in the finale of a 10-game "Fan Celebration Tour."
Longtime teammate Joy Fawcett, 36, also is retiring, but was unable to play because she is recuperating from back surgery.
Playing before a crowd of 15,549 who were yelling their names throughout the match, Hamm, Foudy and Fawcett smiled and waved to the fans after the final whistle.
The three were honored in a pre-game ceremony and were presented with framed jerseys with their numbers on them and bouquets of roses.
The trio left quite a legacy, including the 1999 World Cup victory over China that drew a crowd of 90,000 to the Rose Bowl and attracted a TV audience of some 40 million.
While those three were playing, the United States won two World Cup championships and two Olympic gold medals, including in Athens last summer.
Hamm wore a jersey bearing her husband's name, Chicago Cubs shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, in the second half. Garciaparra and his family were in the stands.
"I wasn't expecting that," said Hamm, who was touched that the Garciaparras joined her family at the game. "That was special."
Hamm, who finished her career with 158 goals, came close to scoring several times, including bouncing a shot off the crossbar in the first half and having a close-range shot blocked by the goalkeeper in the second half.
Aly Wagner and Abby Wambach each scored two goals for the United States, which led 4-0 at halftime.
On the first U.S. goal, Hamm displayed the ballhandling skills that served her so well during her storied career. She took a pass in the right corner of the box, started dribbling to her left, then to her right, feinted back to her left, then raced around an off-balanced defender.
With goalkeeper Pamela Tajonar sliding to her left to cut off the angle, Hamm rolled a perfectly paced pass across the center of the box and a charging Wagner drove a shot into the open left side of the net.
Hamm also assisted on the second score, this time showing her accuracy from the corner. Her curling corner kick sailed just over the goalie's outstretched hands and right into the center of the box, where Wambach headed the ball into the open net.
"Scoring is fun, but it's also fun to watch your teammates enjoying the game," Hamm said. She laughed and added, "I hadn't touched a ball in a month before tonight."