BOCA RATON — In the end, the scoreboard read Sky Blue 2, magicJack 0, but the most important statistic Wednesday night couldn't be found on the scoreboard, but in the stands.
A crowd of 3,286 turned out to welcome Abby Wambach and her magicJack club following a run to the Women's World Cup final in Germany. The turnout -- a sellout -- nearly tripled magicJack's previous high for a home match at Florida Atlantic University and may have set an unofficial record for the largest crowd at a soccer match in Palm Beach County history.
Not only were a few stragglers still in the ticket line at halftime, but hundreds lined the field long after the final whistle, taking advantage of a Women's Professional Soccer league tradition in which drained players from both teams satisfy as many autograph and photograph requests as possible.
"It's amazing," said Megan Rapinoe, a magicJack midfielder who played half the match while her tired legs recover from the World Cup. "Like someone said, we kind of brought the circus with us back from Germany, which is a good thing. If people didn't know about it before, shame on them, but they know about it now. It feels like everyone's excited and interested in it and I think that goes for all the other teams as well. We'll accept the bandwagon, for sure."
It's not like they have a choice. MagicJack has played three matches since the World Cup. All sellouts.
"What a great crowd, a great atmosphere," Wambach said after her home debut as player/coach. "It reminded me a lot of growing up and playing under the lights on a Friday night. I'm so glad the people came out. I think we gave them something to cheer about."
The only missing elements were a few magicJack goals. It wasn't for a lack of trying, because magicJack (5-6-2) took about twice as many shots as Sky Blue (5-5-4), of Somerset, N.J., and looked dangerous for stretches. Typical of magicJack's fortunes was a blistering Wambach header from 8 yards out that was goal-bound until midfielder Therese Sjogran, stationed at the far post, cleared it off the line.
"It was just one of those nights," Wambach said.
Wambach did manage to score, but it was one she'd rather forget. Her own goal in the 69th minute gave Sky Blue a 2-0 lead after Sky Blue's Heather O'Reilly, another World Cup standout, stuffed in a cross off a corner kick in the 15th minute.
"Things may break down here and there because most of these players haven't played with each other for more than 45 minutes," Wambach said.
MagicJack placed a WPS-high seven players on the World Cup team. Their absence during the tournament helps explain why the club won only one match during that stretch and is precisely why before Wednesday, magicJack had played six consecutive matches on the road. MagicJack owner Dan Borislow requested the unbalanced schedule, which includes five of the final six matches at home, so Boca fans could see the full squad. MagicJack next plays host to Boston at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"Abby U R my idol" read a sign held by a young girl before the match. Pockets of yellow and pink in the crowd made youth teams easy to pick out. Fans behind the west goal held Thundersticks aloft, waiting for an excuse to make a racket by banging them together. It was a huge difference from the start of the season, when FAU was equipped to handle no more than 1,500 in festival seating (with a maximum crowd of 1,222).
"It's a phenomenon," said Wambach, whose appearance at Macy's in Boca Raton on Tuesday drew approximately 500 fans. "What we have going here is unlike anything I've ever been a part of, and I played even when Mia (Hamm) was around. I've seen grown men weep over the last few weeks. A little kid cried in front of me yesterday because they were meeting me. It's just so humbling.
"I think that we're part of something bigger than we even realize."
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