Hamm provides memories to last a lifetime
On Sunday, former U.S. women's stars Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy will be inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Both women made significant contributions to the game. Foudy, the captain of the team, became a leader in the women's sports movement.
"Mia was invaluable in the growth of soccer in this country," former U.S. women's coach Tony DiCicco said. "In every aspect -- the growth of it from a popularity standpoint, the growth of it from a marketing and financial standpoint, and the growth of the game from a technical standpoint. I can't think of another player -- male or female -- who had the same impact on the game that she had."
One writer's most memorable moments of seeing Hamm live:
The mark of a champion
Hobbled by an ankle injury, Hamm managed to be in the middle of both goals in the first Olympic gold-medal match -- a 2-1 victory over China -- in Athens, Ga. Aug. 1, 1996.
She fired a shot from a Kristine Lilly left-wing cross that goalkeeper Gao Hong managed to get a hand on and push off the left post in the 19th minute. Shannon MacMillan tucked home the rebound. On the second goal, Hamm fed defender Joy Fawcett, who raced into the penalty area on the right side. Fawcett placed a short pass to Tiffeny Milbrett, who knocked a five-yard shot past Gao.
Grace under fire
A desperate U.S. side trailed Norway in stoppage time, 2-1, late in regulation in the Olympic gold-medal match in Sydney, Australia Sept. 28, 2000.
Hamm raced down the right side and sent a cross into the middle to Milbrett, who headed home the equalizer. Thirty seconds later the referee called time.
The U.S. lost on a sudden-death goal in extra time, 3-2.
A sight you don't see every day: FIFA president Sepp Blatter kissing the top international goal scorer. After Hamm completed an interview in a Thessaloniki, Greece hotel lobby Aug. 16, 2004, Blatter kissed her cheek and wished her well in the Olympic tournament.
"I'll see you in the final," a smiling Blatter said.
To which Hamm replied, "We're going to try."
Blatter replied, "And you win and score goals."
"A Michael Jordan-like performance"
In the Goodwill Games final, Hamm scored both goals in a 2-0 victory over China in Uniondale, N.Y. July 27, 1998. "Mia turned in a Michael Jordan-like performance tonight," DiCicco said. "In fact, I think China took the game over and had more quality chances than we did, but Mia scored the brilliant goal."
That came in the 66th minute. Kristine Lilly fed a streaking Hamm, who fired a 16-yard shot past keeper Zhao Yan. Hamm demonstrated her vision in the 87th minute, lofting a 35-yard shot over Yan.
The close call
Hamm was poised to dominate the 1996 Olympics. After scoring one goal and setting up another in the opening 3-0 victory on July 21 over Denmark in Orlando, Fla., Hamm gave the entire U.S. soccer community a big scare in the next game.
Hamm played a role in both of the U.S. goals in its 2-1 win on July 23 over Sweden in Orlando, before she was taken out in the 81st minute on stretcher after spraining her ankle.
While leaping for the ball in front of the goal, goalkeeper Annelie Nilsson and defender Annika Nessvold landed on top of Hamm.
Follow the leader
On a day where the U.S. was ordinary, Hamm turned out to be spectacular. Hamm lived up to the pre-Women's World Cup hype by scoring a spectacular goal and setting up another to jumpstart a side that played below its potential in a 3-0 victory over Denmark before a Giants Stadium crowd of 78,972 on June 19, 1999.
Hamm scored her 110th career international goal in the 17th minute. She ran onto a long ball from defender Brandi Chastain down the right side and beat defender Katrine Pedersen with an amazing 10-yard shot to the near post past goalkeeper Dorthe Larsen.
Penalty kick hero
Lost in the shuffle of Brandi Chastain's winning penalty kick in the 1999 WWC final was the one that Hamm converted to give the U.S. a 4-3 lead in the shootout before a women's record crowd of 90,185 in the Rose Bowl on July 10.
Hamm didn't like taking penalties. But you had to have Hamm, the world's leading goal scorer, take one in the championship game, right?
Hamm sent her attempt into the lower right corner.
The last gold rush
For one last time, Hamm stood with her teammates shoulder-to-shoulder in triumph. The Fab Five, as they were called -- Foudy, Fawcett, Lilly, Chastain and Hamm -- laughed, cried and joked on the winner's podium at Karaiskaki Stadium in Paraeus, Greece. They celebrated their fourth major international championship together -- the Olympic women's soccer gold medal after surviving a dramatic, 2-1 extra-time win over Brazil on Aug. 26, 2004.
The final goal
Hamm could not have written a better ending for her final international goal on Nov. 3, 2004, scoring her world-record and final 158th international goal in stoppage time to help the Americans salvage a 1-1 draw with Denmark at Giants Stadium. A minute into stoppage time, defender Gitte Andersen failed to clear a bouncing ball outside the penalty area. Abby Wambach retained possession, sending a short pass to Hamm, who fired a 16-yard shot past keeper Tine Cederkvist.
The final goodbye
How appropriate. She started the game wearing a No. 9 jersey with "Hamm" on the back. She left the field at the Home Depot Center with "Garciaparra" on the back (she is married to L.A. Dodger Nomar Garciaparra).
For one last time on Dec. 8, 2004, Hamm, Foudy and Fawcett walked out with their teammates, heard cheers from an appreciative crowd and celebrated an international victory. A crowd of 15,549 gave them a deserved farewell and send off in a 5-0 victory over Mexico.
An emotional Hamm walked off the field after being replaced by Heather O'Reilly in the 81st minute.
Michael Lewis writes about soccer for the New York Daily News. He can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com.