Getting right coach is US women's only concern

Associated Press Modified: October 19, 2012 at 8:02 pm •  Published: October 19, 2012
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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) — American, foreign-born, male, female — members of the U.S. women's soccer team really don't have a preference when it comes to their new coach.

All that matters is they get the right coach.

"Someone who's good enough, that's all I care about," Abby Wambach said Friday. "Be the person who brings the World Cup back."

The U.S. women face Germany on Saturday in the latest stop on their post-Olympic victory tour. But this isn't your standard, no-pressure exhibition. The Americans and Germans are the two top-ranked teams in the world. And after failing to qualify for the London Games, the Germans will be itching to salvage their year by knocking off the Olympic champions.

The game also will be the Americans' first in five years without Pia Sundhage as their coach. Sundhage announced in September that she was leaving, having led the Americans to back-to-back Olympic gold medals as well as their first World Cup final in 12 years. She finished with a 91-6-10 record, including a 23-1-1 record this year alone.

Sundhage has since taken over as the women's national team coach in her native Sweden.

"It's definitely a different atmosphere," said Carli Lloyd, who scored both goals in the Olympic final, a 2-1 victory over Japan. "There's talk of a league but we don't really know too much about it. We're wondering who our new coach is going to be.

"There's a lot of unknowns right now," Lloyd said. "We'll get it all sorted out."

Jill Ellis, the development director for the U.S. women's national teams, is serving as interim coach until a replacement for Sundhage is found. U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said earlier this month that he hoped to select the new coach by late October or November, though it's possible the new coach might not start until January — especially if the coach is involved in an NCAA tournament.

Gulati said there had been 25 to 30 inquiries, both from within the U.S. and abroad, about replacing Sundhage. Among the reported candidates are Tony DiCicco, who led the Americans to the World Cup title in 1999, and Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum, who took over the Under-23 women's team earlier this year. The Irish won NCAA titles in 2004 and 2010 under Waldrum, and were runner-ups three other times.

Though the players don't know who is on the list, U.S. captain Christie Rampone said they have been kept informed about the process. The search committee has asked players what coaches they've played for and what kind of coach they want.

"A coach that would continue to grow this team," Rampone said about her criteria. "A coach who will have good leadership qualities, because there are so many successful people on this team."