Caught in the midst of angst and anxiety of Arsenal getting on board with scoring, comes the news of Pia Sundhage's stepping down as US Women's national team coach over the weekend. She joined in 2007 in one the lowest points in team history, the 4-0 loss to Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals following a huge conflagration between Greg Ryan and Hope Solo which resulted in the US goalie's dismissal.
Five years later, the ship steadied, the US women go on to winning two Olympic golds and World Cup runners up all under Sundhage. Her way to motivate the team is to play guitar and sing Bob Dylan's classic, "The Times They Are a Changin' "
1970s counterculture apparently works. The team brims with confidence. Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan are the most lethal striker duo in the football world, men and women included. And the US midfield has quality in Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath, and Heather O'Reilly, who deliver matches on the line. Hope Solo is back with a vengeance establishing herself as a vocal leader and one of the best shot stoppers in the game.
Sundhage's successor will have huge shoes to fill. But the next generation of US players are no slouches as the U20 World Cup team is proving in Japan. Talent is not the problem. Developing it and introducing these players to ensure no drop off while some in the national team transition remains the challenge. Sundhage didn't quite master that aspect but then that was not her remit.
Thanks Pia, those were fabulous memories you gave us. Good luck in Sweden and in your future endeavours.