U.S. SOCCER: Mark Krikorian takes charge of U-19 women; Tracey Leone promoted to national team assistant

Former Philadelphia Charge coach Mark Krikorian has been hired as the U.S. under-19 women's head coach, taking over for Tracey Leone, who has been promoted to April Heinrichs' assistant with the full women's national team.

Krikorian, 43, will accompany the U-19s on their trek next week to Mexico, where they will meet Mexico's senior national women's team on Wednesday in Mexico City and next Friday in Tabasco.

Leone, 36, guided the U-19s to the title at the first FIFA U-19 World Championship 17 months ago in Canada. She leaves today with the national team for the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Costa Rica.

Krikorian was in Carson, Calif., with the U-19s last month, looking at the team and assessing logistical matters before he accepted a U.S. Soccer contract offer. He has worked as a scout for Heinrichs, including during last year's Women's World Cup, after leading the Charge to a 25-23-13 record in three years of the WUSA. The team lost in the WUSA semifinals in 2001 and 2002.

No decision has been made on the status of U-19 assistant coaches Jeff Pill and Warren Lipka.

The U-19s are preparing for the May 28-June 6 CONCACAF qualifiers in Canada and the second World Championship Nov. 20-27 in Thailand.

Krikorian said Friday that he was impressed with the talent in the U-19 pool, that he was ''very impressed with the mentality, the work ethic of the players, and I was quite satisfied with their technical level.''

The U-19 team features four players from the 2002 championship team -- goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, defender Rachel Buehler and forwards Kerri Hanks and Angie Woznuk -- and the nation's top college freshmen and high school players. Among other key players for the squad are defenders Becky Sauerbrunn, Stephanie Lopez and Jen Buczkowski, midfielders Lorraine Quinn and Carrie Schmit, and forwards Sheree Gray, Megan Rapinoe and Bristyn Davis.

U.S. full national-teamer Heather O'Reilly also is in the pool although she had not been in camp with the current crop. The team's player pool encompasses about 60 players.

Asked how the hierarchy among players would be impacted by the change in coaching, Krikorian said: ''I'm certainly going to use Tracey's know-how, and Jeff's and Warren's, as well. They have been together for awhile, and it would be foolish to discard what they have to say.

''On the other side, the players have to fit my vision of the game, how we play and so forth, so it might provide opportunities for some players, but I'm not looking to make sweeping changes. What they've done has worked. Now it's a matter of tweaking so it reflects what my vision may be.''

The Charge were one of the best teams the first two seasons of the women's professional league but were waylaid by myriad injuries last year and finished 5-11-5, playing to its potential only in the final weeks. Krikorian was the WUSA Coach of the Year in 2002.

Prior to joining the Charge, Krikorian was head coach of NCAA Division II power Franklin Pierce in 1990-96 and of Division I school Hartford in 1997-2000. Krikorian was 168-49-6 as a college coach, winning NCAA titles in 1994 and 1995. He was an assistant coach for the men's team at Division III Maine-Farmington in the late '80s, and he played collegiately at Division II St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.

Krikorian will continue to be based near Philadelphia. Leone is based near Phoenix.

Leone, who played at North Carolina, earned 29 caps (under her maiden name, Bates) as a midfielder for the U.S. national team in 1987-91 and was part of the squad that won the first Women's World Cup title in 1991. She served as an assistant coach for two years at Creighton, then started Clemson's women's program in 1994, guiding the Tigers to an 87-36-3 mark in six seasons as head coach.

She took a leave of absence in 1999 to work with U.S. Soccer's youth national teams (working first with the U-16 girls), and her husband, Ray Leone, took charge of the program after serving as co-head coach. Ray Leone now is the head coach at Arizona State.

Her U-19 team in 2002 featured O'Reilly and current full national team players Lindsay Tarpley, Lori Chalupny and Leslie Osborne, and forward Kelly Wilson, who also has played with the full national team.

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