Pia Sundhage is no longer the head coach of the United States women’s national team. That is as much a reality as the sun rising again on Thursday, the morning after Sundhage coached her final game — a 6-2 victory over Australia.
Seventeen players earned their first cap under Pia Sundhage. For Ella Masar, Brittany Taylor and Kendall Fletcher, the opportunity to suit up in red, white and blue only came once (thus far — Taylor and maybe Masar could possibly still get back into the picture). But several players called in first by Sundhage have become mainstays in the U.S. line-up. As I wrote when Sundhage announced her departure on Sept. 1, the lasting — and really only — criticism of the Swede will be her lack of connection to the youth system and subsequent reluctance to give new players meaningful minutes.
But as much as she may be criticized for that, she has introduced players who have made significant impacts on the team. Granted, some of them demanded call-ups following stellar play in WPS and for youth national teams. Either way, give credit where it is due. These 17 players earned their first call-ups with Sundhage (Olympic roster and alternate players in bold):
Rachel Buehler, Tina DiMartino, Whitney Engen, Kendall Fletcher, Tobin Heath, Sarah Huffman, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Sydney Leroux, Jill Loyden, Ella Massar, Alex Morgan, Christine Nairn, Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Megan Schnur, Brittany Taylor
(Those players in bold don’t even include Ali Krieger, one of the top outside backs at the 2011 World Cup but injured in Olympic qualifying.)
So a good number of players — and some very important ones — got their first cap thanks to Sundhage. In her five years, 75 players came through at least one training camp with Sundhage.
In what has to be the happiest break-up between coach and team/organization we’ve ever witnessed, it’s ‘Goodbye, Pia.’
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