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The Sundhage era begins
by Paul Kennedy, January 15th, 2008 6:45AM

TAGS:  women's national team


New U.S. women's national team coach Pia Sundhage makes her debut Wednesday (kickoff: midnight ET) when the USA faces neighbor Canada in Guangzhou.

When the Americans left last Thursday for China, they were headed to Foshan, south of Guangzhou (Canton), but they learned in mid-flight that the Four Nations Tournament had been moved to Guangzhou itself.

Reflecting the often-chaotic state of women's soccer in China, the tournament had previously been reported to be set for Macau (the former Portuguese colony), then Kunming, also in southern China.

Sundhage named defender Christie Rampone as the team's new captain. Rampone, who is the most capped player on the USA's roster with 176 caps, succeeds Kristine Lilly, who stepped away from soccer to have a baby.

Sundhage is using the trip as a chance to look at some young talent. Seven '07 collegians are in the squad, including 2007 Soccer America Women's College Player of the Year Lauren Cheney. Ali Krieger, the former Penn State star who played last summer for the W-League's Washington Freedom, is also on the roster.

Like the USA, Canada is fielding a young team with only 12 holdovers from its 2007 Women's World Cup team. Collegians called up included the University of Portland's Sophie Schmidt, who played in last September's Women's World Cup, and University of Connecticut goalie Stephanie Labbe.

The USA will also face Finland Friday and host China in the tournament finale on Sunday.

The Americans played the Finns last August in their final tune-up before heading to the Women's World Cup and won, 4-0, in a match that saw the USA claim a 38-2 edge in shots. In China, the Finns will be led by Florida State's Sanna Talonen, the 2007 Soccer America Women's Freshman of the Year.

Sundhage was an assistant coach of the Chinese national team at the 2007 Women's World Cup. Head coach Marika Domanski Lyfors and Sundhage returned to Sweden after the tournament. Frenchwoman Elisabeth Loisel is now coaching China.

Chinese Olympic hopes suffered a severe blow last month when young star Ma Xiaoxu was injured in a friendly game against New Zealand. She is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Briana Scurry (U.S. Soccer residency), Hope Solo (U.S. Soccer residency);
DEFENDERS (6): Stephanie Cox (Univ. of Portland), Tobin Heath (Univ. of North Carolina), Ali Krieger (Washington Freedom), Christie Rampone (U.S. Soccer residency), Becky Sauerbrunn (Univ. of Virginia), Cat Whitehill (U.S. Soccer residency);
MIDFIELDERS (7): Shannon Boxx (U.S. Soccer residency), Lori Chalupny (U.S. Soccer residency), Tina DiMartino (UCLA), Angela Hucles (U.S. Soccer residency), Carli Lloyd (U.S. Soccer residency), Leslie Osborne (U.S. Soccer residency), Angie Woznuk (Univ. of Portland);
FORWARDS (5): Lauren Cheney (UCLA), Heather O'Reilly (U.S. Soccer residency), Amy Rodriguez (USC), Lindsay Tarpley (U.S. Soccer residency), Abby Wambach (U.S. Soccer residency).


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