Sundhage: U.S. women's game needs more skilled players

[WOMEN'S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING] The USA finally qualified for the 2011 Women's World Cup -- two days before Monday's draw in Frankfurt -- and Coach Pia Sundhage acknowledged the U.S. women's game needs to improve in face of increasing competition from the rest of the world.

Amy Rodriguez
's goal in the 40th minute gave the USA a 1-0 win over Italy Saturday afternoon at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. , and 2-0 aggregate victory that sends the Americans to next year's Women's World Cup in Germany.

The USA won't wait long to find out its opponents. The draw will be conducted on Monday in Frankfurt (, live, 1:25 pm ET).

The Americans dominated play but couldn't score until the 40th minute when Megan Rapinoe broke free down the left wing and fired a shot that Italy's American keeper, Anna Picarelli, let roll away from her to Rodriguez, who slotted the ball home. Picarelli, who grew up in California, was otherwise excellent for the Azzurre and kept the game close.

The USA outshot Italy, 17-5, but failed to add to its lead with what was hardly a convincing performance. Sundhage bluntly called the U.S. performance in the first 20 minutes of the first half "crap."

Saturday's game completed a series of three games the USA needed to play when Mexico denied it automatic qualification to Germany '11 with a 2-1 win in the semifinals of the Concacaf qualifying tournament.

Sundhage acknowledged the gap in women's soccer has narrowed in recent years, and the U.S. women need to improve.

“Since FIFA put in the U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cup, so many things have happened in different countries," said the Swede. "Going back to the qualification in Mexico, we're playing against Costa Rica, Guatemala and they’re technical. That’s the important thing about the future of the women’s game, it’s technical and that’s something this country needs, technical players. They need to touch the ball quit a bit when they’re young, very young, and spend time with the ball. I would say the world’s catching up and on top of rank No. 1, it’s hard to stay there, but we're doing what we can.”

Nov. 27 in Bridgeview, Ill.
USA 1 Italy 0. Goal: Rodriguez 40.
USA -- Barnhart, Mitts (Krieger, 76),  LePeilbet, Rampone, Buehler, O’Reilly, Boxx, Lloyd, Rapinoe (Cheney, 59), Rodriguez, Wambach.
Italy -- Picarelli, Gama, D’Adda (Guagni, 46), Tuttino, Tona, Neboli, Domenichetti, Pini (Fuselli, 53), Panico, Conti, Camporese.
Att.: 9,508.

USA-Italy Highlights:

Women's World Cup appearances

5 comments about "Sundhage: U.S. women's game needs more skilled players".
  1. Tyler Dennis, November 28, 2010 at 12:18 p.m.

    How many girls are watching a game on the weekend? How many coaches choose the big fast girls when they are young, girls that can use their physical attributes rather than have to develop the technical?

    Change that and you've got your more technical players.

  2. Stuart d. Warner, November 28, 2010 at 12:26 p.m.

    Tyler Dennis is exactly right, and it applies to boys as well: we look for big, fast, athletic players rather than emphasizing technical virtuosity. Part and parcel of this is that there seems to be little Hispanic presence on the girls side of things, which I suspect is a cultural matter. Of course, there is an enormous amount of Hispanic talent on the boys side, but we do little to make use of it.

  3. Luis P. KIFUTSAL, November 28, 2010 at 1:14 p.m.

    I have been coaching in Southern California for 16 years now. Born and raised in Brazil, moved to North America when I was 24, went through all stages of the Brazilian Soccer...Southern Californians don't excel the stages of streetsoccer, futsal, beach soccer, footvolley, society (smaller versions of real soccer) like we do over there...There are many organizers making money organizing streetsoccer, futsal, beach soccer, footvolley tournaments, but there aren't many coaches teaching the real deal and tricks those games provide. Who are their AYSO coaches? Who are their club coaches? Do they play soccer and all the others mentioned above on a daily or weekly basis? If they are paying money to train, they show up. They rarely get together and play soccer for fun. Who is watching good quality of soccer or soccer news everyday? Even though the women's side is on top still, not many girls watched them suffer to qualify this time around? You ask any girl who is playing at the national team right now, they cannot line up three names in a roll without hesitation. Focus is on win at all cost. Come and watch what North Americans call a quality girls' game to see if their level of skills and awareness is where they should be? Doing soccer twice a week, the way they have been doing for years, sharing their time with other sports and extra school activities, how can they ever excel anything soccerwise? Back then, they had the physical and now the game is asking for who has skills! The other nations are catching up physically, and they show way more awareness and skills then the #1 have been showing for years. They were champions! They were physically unbeaten! You can be stronger in months, but you cannot be skillful from night to day! Who is the most paid women's professional player, MVP, most scores and most exciting player to watch? A North American player is far from getting all these attributes! The infra structure will be always here. Soccer and its components can definitely develop the right way in the entire United States. However, they must work together to truly develop soccer players rather than focus on quick player subs and 'fake' championships especially during their youth years from 5-14 years old where they should take those years to excel the skills and awareness required to really start competing!,

  4. Hector Lizarraga, November 29, 2010 at 12:20 p.m.

    I agree 100% with the above comments. But Ric, what's wrong for charging for soccer training? I have some good friends who are also good soccer players who always gripe that what's wrong with US Soccer is 'pay to play' and then go on and on about how other countries don't charge for youth soccer training and about how kids play in the streets and so on. But that is NOT the US (i.e. Soccer is nationally subsidized in Holland) My point is this, if soccer went to being free in the US, would soccer truly get better? What kind of coaches would you really get? The aforementioned 'volunteer' AYSO coaches? While I don't know about Oliviera's true heart, he says the right things and I am tired of soccer 'purists' who somehow think that if one charges for something it loses it's honesty. The reality is, in America, the hardware costs something, gas, hotel, cones, pinnies, goals, grass mowing, paint, boots, etc, etc, etc. That is America's true problem, a bunch of know it all experts who think they have the patent on learning. Little Paolo didn't make the team because his coach said he dribbles too much, he didn't know he couldn't rainbow the last defender and then heel-side meg the keeper for a goal, 'cause he saw his older cousin do it last week at the juggling contest where he won a new soccer ball. We don't have a problem with skill or feet in the US, we have a problem with eyes. The current 'eyes' of US soccer leaders picking and training our youth, whether they be paid or free.

  5. Ken Sweda, November 29, 2010 at 12:35 p.m.

    Agree totally with Luis and Hector. Americans love paying coaches to teach their kids (read: tactics, formations, situations, systems) so if we agree what they are really lacking after all of this "training" is no one is teaching them footskill why not see the need and respond? I mean, this is America, right? Opportunity means income, especially in this economy. There are plenty of kids in this country who do learn footskill, but they generally don't find their way into the soccer system because it costs so much, and the kids who can afford the soccer clubs aren't taught footskill and they don't bring it to the club on their own at age 7-8. So we have two problems and two solutions: 1. get the underpriveleged self-taught players with footskill into the clubs (Scholarships, etc...) and 2. take the other kids who come to the club with no skill and teach them what they are lacking. I did the same thing as Luis. I can at least work on problem #2, I don't work for a club so I can't do anything about #1. I won't mention my site here but that is my choice and I don't argue with Luis about his decision or his motives. I also, however, hold free pickup games all summer long where the kids can come and play without any pressure, purely for fun and self-expression, which, amazingly (or not) is how the rest of the world gets the head-start they always seem to have.

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