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Ex-USWNT Coach Pia Sundhage Rips Abby Wambach and Hope Solo

Sundhage says the U.S. players were a challenging bunch to coach, and that Wambach would just be a sub if she was still in charge.
Image by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If Pia Sundhage was still in charge of the U.S. Women's National Team, all-time leading scorer Abby Wambach—who played the entire 90 minutes in the USWNT's 3-1 victory over Australia on Monday—would have been benched.

Most coaches tend to offer diplomatic praise for their former teams. But not Sundhage. Especially now that she's standing in the opponent's dugout as Sweden's head coach.

Read More: Why Is The Rhetoric So Amped When We Talk About Hope Solo


"I said that to Abby," Sundhage told The New York Times in an interview. "I told her: 'If I stayed, you would be a sub. The best sub ever. But a sub.' There was no question about that in my mind."

Sundhage paints a picture of a U.S. women's team that was very challenging to coach, complained a lot, and didn't open up to her despite her repeated attempts. "You know, I talk to them about their mom, their dad, their boyfriend, their girlfriend or whatever, and you know what? It goes in one ear and out the other," she said about her time as the U.S. team's head coach between 2008 to 2012.

Apart from the 35-year-old Wambach, Sundhage singled out the U.S. captain and central midfielder Carli Lloyd and U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, who's become an easy target in the run-up to the World Cup due to the public nature of her domestic violence case. Sundhage said that Solo was one of the most challenging players she has had to coach "especially when it comes to trouble," and that Lloyd was ", so delicate," because of the doubts that would creep into her mind about the management's faith in her. When that happened, "she could be one of the worst."

Most of her stinging comments could be brushed off as cheap tactics to get to her opponents' head ahead of an important game, but Sundhage has always been known to speak her mind, and there's hardly a fault to find in her time with the U.S. team. Other than the heartbreaking loss to Japan in a penalty shootout in the 2011 World Cup final, Sundhage had an all-star record with the women's national team, winning Olympic gold medals with them in 2008 and 2012.

Her new team will certainly be confident as it prepares to face the USWNT. Sweden defeated the Americans in the 2011 World Cup.

"We have beaten them before and when you've been there once, you can do it again," their goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl said.

"We know we can beat them," teammate Carola Soberg added. "They are human, too."