U.S. women's national team midfielder Shannon Boxx
, 31, was close to quitting last year because she was emotionally drained, writes Corinna Knoll. But the Olympic gold medallist
was re-energized by the appointment of Pia Sundhage
as coach in November 2007.
"I was close to being done," Boxx said. "It started to become a job. I
probably wasn't playing the best because I wasn't happy." But lately, "I've just been enjoying myself so much. I'm having fun, I'm laughing, and all of a sudden my game
is getting better."
Sundhage gives players "the freedom to be creative," said Boxx, who will be playing with the Los Angeles Sol in Women's Professional Soccer when
it starts next spring. "When you score a pretty amazing goal in practice, she's cheering in the background. How do you not smile and be excited about a goal like that when it's just
practice, but she's going crazy like it's the game-winning goal?"
Sundhage explained how she has adjusted Boxx's midfield role. "Last year she was a holding
player, but here I want her to improve her attacking as well," Sundhage said. "She's taken a huge responsibility in the midfield with Carli Lloyd
. When they play
together I like the way they mix it up. [Shannon] has many more years to go. She leads by example, which is important for the team."
The U.S. plays China this Saturday at the Home
Depot Center in Carson, California, kicking off at 6pm PT.
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