August 8, 2012
By Michael Lewis
Gulati, Flynn will review Sundhage's tenure regardless of a gold or silver medal
LONDON -- If the United States wins the women's soccer gold medal on Thursday, U.S. Soccer will not immediately hire Pia Sundhage for another four years.
|Women’s National Team Coach Pia Sundhage and US Soccer will address the issue of whether to extend her contract at some point after Thursday’s Gold Medal match against Japan.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
If the Americans lose to Japan at Wembley, the country's top soccer body won't show her the door immediately as well.
That's because U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and CEO and secretary general Dan Flynn will review Sundhage's four-year tenure as coach before making a decision.
Sundhage's contract expires on Nov. 30.
"Pia has had a great run with the team," Gulati said during a roundtable discussion with U.S. sportswriters on Wednesday. "It's a better run if we get the gold medal tomorrow, because the expectations are at that sort of level for our program and from our own players. We'll sit down and analyze the situation and that's primarily Dan and myself. But we'll talk with some others and we'll sit down with Pia."
Those others include players and some women's soccer officials and observers outside U.S. Soccer. It is a process that Gulati and Flynn follow when any U.S. national coach's contract is up.
"What we do on Friday and beyond doesn't depend on what happens tomorrow," Gulati said.
"In terms of the specifics, we're going to do here what we do in any big tournament, whether it’s on the women's side or on the men's side, which is look at not just the last 90 minutes, but the last several years. We'll sit down and talk to players. We'll sit down and talk with others in the international community and see what they've seen. Sometimes we're too close to it, and then make a decision going forward."
Gulati did not say when a decision might be made.
Of course, it works both ways. Sundhage might not want to return. She has been quoted as saying he would love to return to her native Sweden to coach its National Team.
"We've had situations where coaches have done very well and they want to move on or the program decides to go in a different direction and not in a euphemistic direction of when you're sacking a coach," Gulati said. "I don't mean that. Literally, the staleness issue, stagnation. Four years is enough of one voice even if you've been successful and it's time for another voice. All of those things we consider when we make a decision."
U.S. Soccer and Sundhage have not talked about the future in recent months.
"We've tried not to talk about it," Gulati said. "It doesn't make sense to talk about it for any number of reasons, not the least of which is focus for everyone. I have not talked to Pia about it in the last six months."
Of course, Sundhage has a say in whether she wants to come back. She is popular with the players and media.
In an interview with Swedish news agency TT in November, Sundhage said she would love to coach the National Team in her native Sweden.
In an interview in February, Sundhage said she was focused on one thing: winning a gold medal. She has been steadfast in that belief since.
“As of now, I have not talked to U.S. Soccer on whether I will continue another four years or not,” Sundhage said then. “So I am unemployed Dec. 1. Instead of getting too worried about that, I really try to enjoy the moment because being around this team and winning a gold medal 2008 and silver medal in 2011 [at the Women's World Cup] with a wonderful team.
“If I start to think about the future too much, then I think I missed the journey, so to speak. That’s one of my strengths. I don’t get too eager to the gold medal or not dreaming too much going forward. I’m not living in the future.
“I want to stay here because I am the lucky one. I have the best job in the world being around really good coaches and fantastic players and enjoy every day.”
When Sundhage came on board in 2007, it was for a one-year deal with the 2008 Beijing Olympics looming close after U.S. Soccer fired Greg Ryan.
"When Pia came on board, it was a unique situation because normally when we're hiring coaches, we're doing them on a four-year cycle, whether it’s the men's team or the women's team," Gulati said. "In Pia's case, we hired her on a one- year basis and that was one of the challenges of whether she knew our set up well enough because that was one of the big turnaround time to the Olympics from the world championship. Obviously when that was successful and she did [well] and the players reacted well, we continued it."