SI PLAYERS, OCT.29 The last time the U.S. women's soccer team was looking for a coach, in 2004,Pia Sundhage (below) was the first choice of many players. That support likelycost her a shot at the job; April Heinrichs had just been ousted in a players'revolt, and the U.S. Soccer Federation wasn't about to let the team pick hersuccessor. So Heinrichs's assistant Greg Ryan was promoted.
But after thedebacle that was the 2007 Women's World Cup—which featured a 4--0 drubbing atthe hands of Brazil and a well-documented goalkeeper controversy—it becameapparent that someone with fresh ideas was needed. Last week, a month after itwas announced that Ryan wouldn't be retained, the USSF did something it hadnever done: It hired an outsider to run the women's program. A legendary playerin her native Sweden and a successful coach in the now defunct WUSA, Sundhage,47, is also the team's first foreign coach. She vowed to inject some pizzazzinto a U.S. attack that has grown predictable, even moribund.
The team wassupposed to be off until January, but Sundhage will hold a camp next month.Timing is of the essence for both the team and its new coach. Olympicqualification begins early in 2008, and Sundhage's contract is only for oneyear.