'This team is better than 2008'

July, 26, 2012
Abby WambachAP Photo/Chris ClarkU.S. Coach Pia Sundhage praised Abby Wambach, who helped the team to come back against France.

Thursday is an off day for the U.S. women’s soccer team. So, naturally the women spent the day basking in the glow of their opening-game come-from-behind win over France Wednesday night. OK, maybe not.

This morning, coach Pia Sundhage and her staff met early to review tape of last night’s game. After lunch, they met with the team for an hour and a half of game analysis. Then they headed, as a team, back to Hampden Park to watch the Spain vs. Japan men’s match (Japan won 1-0).

After the game, Sundhage took a few minutes back at the team hotel in Glasgow to tell us what she learned during those review sessions and how she feels about her squad moving forward.

On what she said to the team …

“It was a unique game. I wanted to grab onto that feeling that we did something we had never done before. Giving up two goals -- that happened before, in 2008. But the fact that Boxx got injured and we had 10 good minutes at the beginning of the match. That didn’t happen against Norway in 2008. And the fact that we came back. So I said to them, ‘This team is better than 2008.’ I tried to grab the moment and talk about positive things. I mentioned Abby Wambach’s name several times, in a very positive way.”

On her critique of Wednesday night’s play …

“We didn’t show them one bad thing [from last night’s game.] Well, we showed them one picture where we were a little bit stretched out. But that’s only one picture. My glass is half full. I fully believe in coaching the healthy part instead of picking apart the mistakes. That is easy after the first game, though.”

On what she picked up this morning that she didn’t see Wednesday night …

“When they scored the second goal last night, I was calm and thinking, ‘I’m very happy I’ve been here before. Having the experience of big events helps a lot. Inside, though, you want to scream bad things. But you don’t. You look at it in a positive way and the positive thing was that I looked out and saw … Well, in 2008, we didn’t have Abby. We did last night. And we looked more dangerous in the beginning of the game this time. When I watched it again this morning, I thought the second half was a little better than I had felt last night.”

On Shannon Boxx’s hamstring injury ...

“I will have a long meeting with Shannon and the medical staff. I want to leave it alone right now. For her, it’s tough. I thought she played well and then she goes down. I want her to deal with the day and then tonight after dinner; we will talk and come up with a plan. We’ll see how serious it is and go from there.”

On the depth of her team …

“I look at the bench and this team is so fun and exciting to coach. If you’re not in the starting lineup … I’ll give you two examples: Heather O’Reilly and Carli Lloyd. Carli scored the winning goal in 2008, and all of a sudden, I am the one that put those two girls on the bench. And that is hard for them. But they are good team players and good teammates. I lay it out for them by saying, ‘This is a good team. If you don’t start the game, you can finish the game.’ That is what Carli Lloyd did. I’m so happy for her, because I expected her to play maybe the last 20 minutes, but when Boxxy went down, I looked at her and she was prepared. She has never complained or moaned. For me, that is a good team player. That is the key to this team. They look at the team and have different roles, and they do it for their teammates.”

On what she thinks about the next two weeks …

“We scored four goals and it was amazing. If you look at how we scored -- getting behind, setting pace, long-range shots -- two things come to mind. We say, ‘We’ll never give up.’ We’ve said that since 2008. With this team, they find a way to win. And I give credit to the team. Nobody was pointing fingers at anybody after being down 2-0. Can you imagine, with such high expectations, the pressure? But we put it together. That confidence means a lot going forward.”

Alyssa Roenigk

ESPN The Magazine senior writer
Alyssa Roenigk is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com whose assignments covering action sports, Olympics and football have taken her to six continents and caused her to commit countless acts of recklessness. In 2012, she joined the X Games TV broadcast team and ordered additional pages for her passport. Follow her on Twitter at @espn_alyssa.



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