Pia Sundhage, one of Sweden's most accomplished women's soccer players and coaches, Tuesday was named coach of the United States women's national team, replacing Greg Ryan.
Sundhage, 47, is the sixth coach in the program's 22-year history, the second woman after April Heinrichs, and the first foreign coach. Her contract is for one year. In a telephone call from Sweden, she said her goals were to improve the technical proficiency and tactical savvy of the American players, improve communication within the team and take advantage of what she called the Americans' "go for it" attitude.
She said she wants players who can dictate the tempo of a game, are comfortable with the ball and know how to pick the right moments to attack.
Sunil Gulati, the president of U.S. Soccer, said Sundhage was one of three finalists from an original list of 10 candidates. "She knows the international game and has a great track record of not only winning, but getting the most out of players and teams."
As a player, Sundhage scored 71 goals in 146 games for Sweden, making her debut at age 15 in 1975 and retiring 21 years later after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She helped Sweden win one gold, two silver and one bronze medal in the European Women's Championships and led it to third place at the 1991 Women's World Cup.
She has coached on either the club or national team level in Sweden, Norway, the U.S. and China. Her coaching experience with American players included three years with the Philadelphia Charge and Boston Breakers of the Women's United Soccer Assn. She was a scout for the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Most recently, as an assistant coach, she helped China reach the quarterfinals of the 2007 Women's World Cup. "It is a unique moment in many aspects, including U.S. Soccer hiring a foreigner," she said.