For the first time since 2002, an American has been named FIFA's World Player of the Year, but it wasn't 28-goal, 21--assist Alex Morgan who took home the award. Instead, Abby Wambach, the United States captain and leading scorer at the 2012 Olympics earned the Ballon d'Or, joining Coach of the Year Pia Sundhage as trophy winners on the night.
Wambach scored five goals in London to lead the U.S. to the gold medal and was the clear leader, well-deserved of her title as captain. She never scored twice in one match, chipping in with a goal all but one match as she led the line for the U.S. match after match. She was the physical force that wore on defenses and often made the pass or the run that opened space for the likes of Morgan and Carli Lloyd to exploit.
It was that Olympics that earned Wambach the award. Morgan actually took home U.S. Soccer Player of the Year honors after becoming just the second America to ever score 20 goals and have 20 assists in a season , but FIFA clearly put extra stock in the Olympics. It was there that Wambach shone, while U.S. Soccer rewarded an incredible season by Morgan, but one in which she was best in friendlies.
The 32-year-old Wambach earned 21% of the vote, ahead of Brazil's Marta, who won 14% of the vote. Morgan was the third finalist and got 11% of the vote, which is somewhat perplexing, but hardly worrisome. The 23-year-old Morgan will be a finalist, and a World Player of the Year award winner several times over before her career is over.
Sundhage's U.S. career is over, having left the American team in September to take over her native Sweden, but she leaves as the FIFA World Coach of the Year. The manager helped bring along Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and later on, Sydney Leroux, all three of whom had career years and the result was a dominant, gold medal-winning year.
Best of all, Sundhage accepted her award as only she could. She stepped up to he podium ... and sang. It was a fitting way for the Sundhage era, as the U.S. manager, to end, and a great way to celebrate her year and Wambach's, for which they were deservingly honored.