[U.S. WOMEN] When she took the job as head coach of the U.S. women's team 13 months ago, Pia Sundhage signed a deal that guaranteed her only nine months of employment.
Upon an exhaustive review following the team's gold-medal performance at the Olympic Games, which U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati indicated took about 30 seconds, negotiations began for a longer alliance. Monday came the official announcement that she will be in place until the next Olympics, scheduled for 2012 in London.
"It has been a long and fantastic year," said Sundhage after the U.S. beat China, 1-0, Saturday at Home Depot Center, for its record 32nd victory of 2008. "So many good things have happened. I have had a couple of rests in between the games on the Victory Tour. I will go back to Sweden for vacation and come back and start all over again for the next four years."
Sundhage will gather the players in late January for the first camp of 2009 with an eye on selecting a roster for the Algarve Cup in March. With the advent of Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) on the horizon, the team will play only a handful of games until the fall, when she hopes to take a team to Europe.
"I hope I get two games in May and two games in July, something like that," says Sundhage, a former Swedish international player who coached two WUSA teams before that league folded in 2003. "We need a couple of games even though the league is playing to see how the new players perform with the Olympic players.
"After that, I want to take them to Europe, because everything is happening in Europe the next few years. The European Championship [in Finland] ends Sept. 10, so hopefully we'll get a chance to play Germany or some of the other good teams over there late in this year. The fact the under-20 championship in 2010 is in Germany, and so is the [Women's] World Cup in 2011, and the Olympics are in London, I think, means along with the new league, we have to be in Europe."
That type of foresight and planning is one reason U.S. Soccer hired her to replace Greg Ryan, who was dismissed following the 2007 Women's World Cup in which the U.S. finished third. She got the job through her experience and reputation; she's kept it by winning.
"Pia has demonstrated the qualities of a great leader, a great soccer tactician and she is a winner," said Gulati in a release announcing the new contract, the terms of which were not disclosed. "We are extremely happy to have her on board for the next cycle of the Women's World Cup and the Olympics and will be looking forward to seeing the Women's National Team program grow under her direction for the next four years."