SI PLAYERS, OCT.
29 The last time the U.S. women's soccer team was looking for a coach, in 2004,
Pia Sundhage (below) was the first choice of many players. That support likely
cost her a shot at the job; April Heinrichs had just been ousted in a players'
revolt, and the U.S. Soccer Federation wasn't about to let the team pick her
successor. So Heinrichs's assistant Greg Ryan was promoted.
But after the
debacle that was the 2007 Women's World Cup—which featured a 4--0 drubbing at
the hands of Brazil and a well-documented goalkeeper controversy—it became
apparent that someone with fresh ideas was needed. Last week, a month after it
was announced that Ryan wouldn't be retained, the USSF did something it had
never done: It hired an outsider to run the women's program. A legendary player
in her native Sweden and a successful coach in the now defunct WUSA, Sundhage,
47, is also the team's first foreign coach. She vowed to inject some pizzazz
into a U.S. attack that has grown predictable, even moribund.
The team was
supposed to be off until January, but Sundhage will hold a camp next month.
Timing is of the essence for both the team and its new coach. Olympic
qualification begins early in 2008, and Sundhage's contract is only for one