U.S. Women’s National Team Coach Pia Sundhage has signed a new four-year contract with U.S. Soccer that will be announced Monday, 100 Percent Soccer has learned.
The new deal will take the Swedish coach through the 2011 World Cup in Germany and was widely expected. Sundhage was given a short-term contract after the firing of Greg Ryan with the mission of winning an Olympic gold medal.
It’s been almost exactly a year since Sundhage took charge of the team at a camp at Home Depot Center, so I did a little Q & A with the coach in the wake of the China game Saturday in Carson in a year that saw the U.S. win a record number of games.
Question: Reflect on your year in charge. How was it?
Answer: It’s been fantastic. It’s almost a dream come true. … Coaching the best players in the world – it has been better than I could have thought about and dream about. … They have embraced the change because I wanted to change both a little bit of the playing style, but I guess also my leadership is a little bit different because I do not come from this country and I think U.S. Soccer was brave to hire me in an Olympic year. Its been fantastic even though Kristine Lilly got pregnant, Abby (Wambach) broke her leg and we lost the first game against Norway. But we found a way to have fun, we found a way to win and we really worked as a team. I think that is key.
Q: So what will change in the next four years?
A: We won the gold medal because of great defense and a great atmosphere in the team. I think we should go into Germany in 2011 and try to win another gold medal, but I hope people will talk about the way we attack. So now we have two years to adjust the attacking style because honestly I think Brazil played better attacking soccer than we did (at the Olympics). I like the way Japan is playing attacking soccer as well. They knock it around and they are comfortable with the ball. So we need to learn from the Asian team when it comes to technique and to read the game a little bit better and that is in the attack.
I watched the U-20 World Cup, hopefully we’ll change the team a little bit. I’m impressed with the way they’ve changed their game – I’ve only been here 10 months so I can see many things happening with these players. I can promise you it will not be exactly the same players. We will try to change different players coming in and try to change the chemistry a little bit, the atmosphere a little bit and expectations and I think that’s important going forward. Because, we want to win the gold medal in a different way.
Q: What was the key to success this year?
A: First of all, they were looking for a change, so that was a good start. Whatever I did, something they hadn’t done before, they embraced that. Secondly, they work as a team. They respect the roles, they had different kinds of roles. If you look at the back four I expect them to keep possession, be comfortable, so we change the expectations and little by little going into the Olympics mentally we were strong. We knew that we have a lot of fun and we can do it.