Soccer: Norio Sasaki
January, 9, 2012
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
U.S. women's national team star Abby Wambach and head coach Pia Sundhage will have to be content with being finalists for FIFA's major women's honors.
Japan, as expected, swept the women's awards at FIFA's Ballon d'Or gala Monday night in Zurich, with Homare Sawa claiming the player-of-the-year honor and Norio Sasaki winning as best coach after their surprise triumph at last summer's Women's World Cup in Germany.
Sawa, 33, has extensive experience in the U.S., playing all three seasons in the Women's United Soccer Association for the Atlanta Beat and the first two years in Women's Professional Soccer for the defunct Washington Freedom. She also played in the W-League in the late 1990s.
Wambach, 31, who has a home in Hermosa Beach, finished third for the player award after leading the U.S. to the WWC title game. Former L.A. Sol star Marta, 25, a Brazilian playmaker who helped the Western New York Flash to the WPS title last year, was second in the balloting. She won the award the previous five years.
Hope Solo finished fifth, and Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS) was eighth.
Sundhage finished second in the coach-of-the-year finalist vote. Former Cal State L.A. coach Leo Cuellar, who guides Mexico's women, was ninth.
Barcelona star Lionel Messi won the FIFA World Player honor for men for the third straight year, and his coach, Pep Guardiola, won the coaching award.
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