Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Pia Sundhage ready for exit
ESPN.com news services
U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, who will guide the U.S. women's soccer team for her final match Wednesday night in a post-Olympic tour vs. Australia (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET), called her exit from U.S. soccer and her scheduled return home to coach Sweden's national team "bittersweet."
"I've been gone for so long and I want to go home," she said. "But I will miss this team. I am a much better coach than I was five years ago. These players have made me a better coach."
Sundhage will guide the Americans for the final time in Wednesday's rematch with Australia in Commerce City, Colo. She has made no secret of her desire to coach her homeland's national team.
"It's exciting -- that's the word," said Sundhage earlier this week after the U.S. team's 2-1 victory in the second match of the tour.
In that match, Alex Morgan scored one goal and set up the second as the U.S. women rallied from a first-half deficit.
"If you look at the first half, eh, wasn't happy about that, but then they turn it around. They come back. That's typical for this team, you know, coming back and never, ever give up," said Sundhage.
Morgan scored the tying goal in the 55th minute and won the penalty kick Shannon Boxx converted eight minutes later as the Americans, who last month won the gold medal at the London Games, shook off a rough first 45 minutes to improve to 2-0 on the 10-game tour.
Australia, which started six players 19 or younger, went ahead in the 34th minute when Lisa de Vanna beat U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo after outsprinting two defenders on a run from midfield.
Morgan, from Diamond Bar, Calif., celebrated her 50th international appearance -- and first hometown game with the national team -- with her team-best 22nd goal of the year and 32nd all-time for the U.S. She took a pass from Heather O'Reilly, stepped into the box, cut inside defender Stephanie Catley and fired into the ceiling of the net from about 15 yards.
Sundhage, who took charge of the U.S. in 2008 and has fashioned a 90-6-10 record, announced earlier this month that she was resigning after guiding the team to successive Olympic gold medals.
U.S. Soccer officials said in a statement that it was "early in the process of the coaching search" and that a committee led by federation president Sunil Gulati and including former U.S. standouts Mia Hamm and Danielle Slaton are "making a list of candidates and will soon start having conversations with those candidates."
Information from The Associated Press and reporters Ramona Shelburne and Alyssa Roenigk contributed to this report.