September 1, 2012
A PARTING HUG
Wambach says 'goodbye,' thanks Sundhage in her own unique way
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- With 18 minutes remaining of the U.S. women's 8-0 win over Costa Rica on Saturday, striker Abby Wambach was replaced by Sydney Le Roux. Wambach, who recorded a brace at Sahlen Stadium, went over to coach Pia Sundhage on the U.S. bench and gave her a big hug.
Translated: there is little doubt that the players will miss Sundhage, who is leaving the team to take over as Sweden's women's coach.
“I never do that," Wambach said of the hug. "That’s a sign, it’s going to be hard to leave a field and get into the locker room and not see her. I love Pia so much because she has shown me what it’s like to love the game. Her passion is contagious and I wish nothing but the best for her.”
Striker Alex Morgan, who has become one of the world's most lethal strikers, said she will miss Sunduage.
“She gave me my first cap and has helped me grow into this team gradually," she said. "It’s been baby steps for me. I appreciate her doing that for me. I wish her well on her next journey.”
Added Wambach: “We’re all sad, we love Pia. She’s done so much for our team and this game. She’s done a lot for soccer her whole life and she’ll definitely be missed.”
Sundhage broke the news to the team on Saturday morning, prior to the game.
“It was unfortunate, the timing," Morgan said. "Pia has a great opportunity in Sweden. This morning we found out the news so we wanted to play for her and we wanted to put on a good show for her and the fans.”
The timing depends on one's vantage point. Sundhage will take over Sweden, which will host the UEFA Women's Championship next summer.
“It’s just good timing," she said. "I’ve been around this team for five years and there is no big tournament for this team next year. Meanwhile, the most important tournament goes on in Europe. It’s just a fantastic opportunity for me. Still, I have mixed feelings because just look at Abby Wambach and look at everything out here today. They don’t have that in Sweden, but maybe they can get that.”
Asked if winning the gold medal in London last month had anything to do with her decision, Sundhage replied, “Gold is one thing, but the journey is what matters. It’s all about the journey. I’ve had three different journeys, 2008, 2011 and 2012 with different players. I’m so happy when we play good soccer. . . . The fact that we’ve been winning many games, I think that helps, but if it would’ve been a silver medal or bronze medal I don’t know if that would’ve mattered. I’m not too big on redemption. Next year is a very big year for Sweden.”