Pia Sundhage Steps Down as US Women's Soccer Coach
Pia Sundhage has stepped down as mentor of the United States women's soccer team to pursue a coaching job in her native country Sweden.
Sundhage, who led the US to two Olympic medals and a runner-up finish in last year's World Cup, made the announcement hours before the start of the team's victory tour to celebrate their gold medal at the London Olympics.
"After the Olympics, we had discussions and early in the process it became clear that Pia was very interested in returning home to Sweden," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "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 said they will begin searching for Sundhage's successor but has set no timetable for naming a new coach.
"It was an honor to be able to coach these players for five years and I learned a tremendous amount from them," said the 52-year-old Sundhage, who had an 88-6-10 record since taking over the team in 2007 and made the final of all three major tournaments during her tenure.
"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," she added.
Sundhage will stay with the team for at least the next two games of their victory tour against Australia Sept. 16 in Carson, California and Sept. 19 in Commerce City, Colorado. The team then plays two-time World Cup champion Germany on Oct. 20 in Bridgeview, Ill., and Oct. 23 in East Hartford, Conn.
"I have to admit, I've been away from my home for five years," Sundhage said. "The fact that Sweden is hosting the European championship in 2013, that's a big thing of course. I want to do the right thing with U.S. Soccer and start with talking with them and see if I can give another four years. And that's a key, because this team, they deserve somebody that's committed 110 percent."
Sundhage replaced Greg Ryan as coach after the US suffered its worst defeat to Brazil, 4-0, in the semifinal of the 2007 World Cup in China. Before the game, Ryan decided to bench goalkeeper Hope Solo, who had a shutout streak of nearly 300 minutes going.
"It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that," Solo said afterwards about Ryan's decision.
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