Harrison, N.J. — Before the United States’ SheBelieves Cup game vs. England in Harrison, New Jersey in March, Christie Rampone stood on the field with her two daughters, her No. 3 jersey next to her, many of her former teammates on the field, watching a video tribute about her 19 years with the U.S. women’s national team. Then, a surprise visit from fellow legend Abby Wambach to hand her flowers in her send off game.
“It’s hard to put into words,” she said of the tribute. “I will realize this probably when I’m at home one day. It’s gonna just hit me like, ‘Wow I can’t believe I played 19 years at the highest level.’”
After 311 caps (second only to Kristine Lilly’s 354), two World Cup titles and three Olympic gold medals, Rampone’s career with the U.S. women’s national team officially came to a close. While she hadn’t played a national team game since 2015, this was a chance for U.S. Soccer and the fans’ to finally honor the former captain.
“Christie, she’s a legend. She’s the best. She has led this team for so long,” Carli Lloyd said. “It’s been just an honor to be able to play with her and get to know her for so many years.”
Rampone’s style was that of a quiet leader. For Becky Sauerbrunn, who is now co-captain along with Lloyd, Rampone’s style was made her so effective as a captain.
“For as long as I played with her, she was always the captain and in a team of extroverts, she was just very introverted, but everything she said carried such weight,” Sauerbrunn said.
“My first cap was right next to her and it was like we had been playing for years and that’s kind of what Christie was all about. She was just so steady. It didn’t matter if we were up four goals or down four goals, you always knew what you were going to get from her and it was just reliable and steady.”
Rampone’s national team career spanned nearly two decades. The college forward converted to defender and went on to become one of the best center backs in women’s soccer history.
“I think being a defender was my true calling. That was my speciality in basketball,” she said. “That’s the greatest thing about playing with this team. Practices are harder than games. You battle at practice so much you make each other better. All the different personalities of forwards coming at me with the Abby Wambachs, Alex Morgan, Tiffeny Milbrett, Mia. All those players were so different. That made be a better player.”
Rampone became captain in 2008, leading a strong United States defense to an Olympic gold medal after losing forward Abby Wambach to a broken leg just weeks before the tournament. She won another gold medal in 2012 before finally being able to life the World Cup trophy as a captain in 2015.
Rampone will continue with Sky Blue FC this season, which is good news for her team as she was one of the best defenders in the league last year, starting all 20 games and never missing a minute of action.
Watch: Sky Blue FC follows Rampone at Red Bull Arena
After her NWSL career, Rampone is hoping to get into coaching.
“I know you can’t just step in and be this brilliant coach. Not all the best players are great coaches but I think being a center back and seeing the game in front of you and having to communicate so much and organize. I think center backs convert into pretty good coaches,” Rampone said.
Of course, Rampone famously won a Women’s Professional Soccer title as player/coach back in 2009, coaching Sky Blue FC to three consecutive upset playoff wins, including a 1-0 shutout win over the Los Angeles Sol and league MVP Marta. So she does have more than a little experience with coaching at a high level.