September 1, 2012
Sundhage to return to Sweden
CHICAGO - U.S. Women's National Team head coach Pia Sundhage has decided to return home to pursue opportunities in Sweden.
|Pia Sundhage guided the U.S. Women’s National Team to back-to-back Olympic Gold Medals and a second-place finish in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
"It was an honor to be able to coach these players for five years and I learned a tremendous amount from them," said Sundhage in a statement released by U.S. Soccer.
"I want to thank all the players and all of my assistant coaches for making me better. Before I took this job, I always admired the spirit and character of the U.S. team, but to experience that first-hand on the training field and from the bench as their coach was truly special and something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Although it is time to move on, I'd like to thank U.S. Soccer for this wonderful opportunity and I wish this team and the players all the best in the future."
Sundhage was hired in November 2007, following the team’s much-publicized crash out of the 2007 Women’s World Cup in China in the wake of former coach Greg Ryan’s change of goalkeepers replacing Hope Solo with veteran Briana Scurry in what turned out to be a 4-0 loss to Brazil. Sundhage was hired shortly thereafter, amid some controversy over the U.S. Women’s team for the first time having a foreign born coach.
Sundhage took over the team with less than a year to go before the 2008 Olympics, guiding the Americans to a Gold Medal performance. She compiled an 88-6-10 record and guided the U.S. to back- to-back Olympic Gold Medals with the win over Japan in the finals last month. Her tenure culminated in two of the team's best tournaments ever - the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany and the 2012 Olympics -- in terms of the quality of play on the field and excitement generated by the matches.
In total, Sundhage won 11 tournament titles, including three Algarve Cup titles in Portugal, two Olympic qualifying tournaments and two Olympic gold medals.
Her laid-back style became popular with players, fans and media, and she would often burst out into song.
The U.S. kicks off its celebration tour on Saturday in Rochester, NY. U.S. Soccer did not say whether Sundhage would complete the tour with the team.
"After the Olympics we had discussions and early in the process it became clear that Pia was very interested in returning home to Sweden," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "It certainly wasn't an easy decision for U.S. Soccer or Pia. She deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the amazing success the U.S. Women's National Team had during the past five years. On behalf of U.S. Soccer, we sincerely appreciate Pia's hard work, dedication and commitment to the organization. We wish her all the best in the future."
Gulati and U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn will begin the search process for a new coach immediately, but there is no set timetable for when a replacement will be in place.