ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Abby Wambach has fond memories of the U.S. women's soccer team's last visit to Albuquerque.
The U.S. team, coming off a disappointing third-place finish in the World Cup, visits Saturday to complete a three-game series against Mexico. Wambach remembers the 3-0 win over Mexico in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 17,805 fans, a warmup before the team headed for gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
"People there are very knowledgeable about the game," Wambach said. "You can tell by the ooohs and aaahs from the crowd. The people in the crowd were really into it and that makes it pretty exciting."
Midfielder Lori Chalupny scored her first goal with the national team at the end of that match.
"It's a moment I'll never forget as long as I live," she said. "Albuquerque will always have a special place in my heart. I remember it was Mother's Day and it was a nice gift for my mom."
Since it was just her eighth game on the national team, it also gave her a measure of credibility as officials determined the final Olympics roster.
"I remember I was fighting and scratching to make the team for Athens," she said.
Chalupny didn't go to Greece. But along with Wambach, she has since become a mainstay on the team, helping to replace stars Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain.
"We miss those players, obviously," Chalupny said. "But we have a group that's extremely close. We have a great time together."
With two runaway wins against Mexico in exhibition games this month, some of the sting of the World Cup disappointment is starting to fade. Now, the U.S. is looking ahead to another Olympic year.
"We're just having fun with these games," midfielder Leslie Osborne said. "We're professionals out there, so we're taking them seriously. Starting in January, that's when we'll start getting ready for the Olympics."