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Home / News / USWNT Head Coach Pia Sundhage and Players Abby Wambach and Heather O’Reilly Discuss the USA’s 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Roster
USWNT Head Coach Pia Sundhage and Players Abby Wambach and Heather O’Reilly Discuss the USA’s 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Roster

USWNT Head Coach Pia Sundhage and Players Abby Wambach and Heather O’Reilly Discuss the USA’s 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Roster

Pia Sundhage, Abby Wambach and Heather O’Reilly discuss the naming of the 21-player roster for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, as well as preparations for the tournament and the team’s upcoming matches against Japan and Mexico.

© Robin Nordlund/U.S. Soccer

IN THE IMAGE: U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage and select players discuss the U.S. roster for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach PIA SUNDHAGE

Opening comments:
“First of all we have named our players and it has been extremely hard to pick the 21. They’ve done a great job competing against each other so we can compete against the world. There are three good goalkeepers who are very diverse. They’ve done a great job, not only the three but also the fourth and the fifth. We went for seven defenders, and we have some youth but also we have players that have played in the World Cup and the Olympics, as well. I’m very happy to have captain Christie Rampone back and right now she will be playing with Rachel Buehler and it will be important for those two to work together, be tough in the air and on the ground and sort out the defending. Then we went for seven midfielders. There is a lot of experience playing in the Olympics and they’re very different. FIFA Womens World Cup 2011It will look different from right side to left side, depending on who is playing. We have a lot of options. On top, the four very different goalscorers have a lot of experience as well. Of all of the players, regardless who plays in the starting lineup, I’m absolutely sure there will be players coming off the bench and making the difference. I’m very happy with the 21 we picked and the fact they’re very different from one player to another.”

On overcoming the bumps in the road and the obstacles presented during 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying:
“My glass is half full. I look at it in a positive way. When I look back, I look at the Mexico, Italy and other games where we struggled a little bit and it gave us a chance to play under pressure. If we can deal with that pressure, which we did against Italy, that’s amazing. We came out stronger after those games. And the other thing is, I think it’s so important to look at whatever the game teaches us. We have things against England or the two upcoming games against Japan we can work on. It’s about two halves of 45 minutes and that pressure to put that in a positive concept and when it doesn’t work remember, everybody, including myself and the players, has high expectations, not only that we’re going to win but that we’re going to win in a specific way and play some good soccer. When that doesn’t come, we will come back to the default and make sure we find a way to win. I look back and there are a lot of chances to bring up certain things and tell the team, ‘you know what, we made it.’ I think that’s a good feeling.”

On choosing the roster and whether this roster is the one she’s had in mind for a while:
“We’ve been open-minded and we have looked at each opportunity and had some players coming in and competing for the squad. It looks fairly easy, but that’s why I want to emphasize that it was very hard because I think every player coming in, no matter the camp they went to, they competed and did their very best. It will make this team both stronger and better, and appreciative of the fact that they made the team and are going to the World Cup.”

On Becky Sauerbrunn:
“I think this is a very good example of how it takes not only a second chance, but a third chance. If you really love soccer, you get a chance, and if you’re skillful you get a chance to be called up to the national team. I saw her for the first time in 2008 and she went to the tournament in China, the very first I coached. After that she didn’t make it and there are certain things she had to work on. She comes back three, four years later and she’s done very well. The thing is, she can end up in the backline on the left side, on the right side and central. She has taken the opportunity, she is relaxed and she’s grabbing the chance, and she’s humble. That’s a huge thing and that’s why she will make this team better.”

On whether there are differences in preparing for a World Cup compared to an Olympic tournament:
“Yes and no. If you look at the pressure, it’s the same pressure and we love it. We want to play under pressure and deal with that. We are taking a totally different road to the World Cup compared to the Olympic gold medal. Back then I was new. I got a chance to get to know all of these wonderful players. We’re talking about a chance, coming from the fact that U.S. Soccer was brave enough to hire a coach from Sweden and try to get that gold medal, and the fact that the players embraced that change made the difference. Now we’re working on certain things and now we are talking about a change again. It’s a different way, a different road to Germany and we are right now looking at a little bit of a restraint. You’ve heard Abby say that it’s an attitude and it was all about the team in 2008 and it will be all about the team in 2011 as well. We have worked on certain things in order to improve, first of all, our attack. It’s a lot about flanks compared to 2008.”

On Ali Krieger’s path to the U.S. WNT:
“I saw Ali Krieger for the first time in 2008 and she didn’t make the team. She’s been playing in Frankfurt in Germany and been around different players and I think that made her improve her game quite a bit, along with playing in the beginning in Frankfurt as a center mid, playing now in the back as an outside back. It’s been interesting to see how she has developed, not only defending but also her attacking personality. It’s been a pleasure to be around her because, like we talked about Becky Sauerbrunn, you see a player who shows up three years later and has worked on certain things and makes the team. That’s rewarding for her but also rewarding for the team and for me.”

On what she is hoping to learn from the games against Japan and Mexico:
“Every game teaches you something and every game is something we’re all longing for and want to play two times 45 minutes. I look at the whole road to the World Cup, from now on and in the World Cup. I’ve been watching North Korea quite a bit. It’s an Asian team and you have some things that are similar to Japan. They are technical players and they read the game very well. Of course, when you’re playing against Mexico, it is another 90 minutes to get a good feeling. Now, we go over to Europe and everything starts. Games are very important. I would like to emphasize that we talk about the gold medal, we talk about this and that. For me it’s winning the next game and win it in such a way that you learn from that game and you have a bigger chance to win the next game.”

On what the conversations were like with players who did not make the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup roster:
“Every single practice and every single time we play in a game you evaluate players, and as I said, we put them in different drills to make sure we get the right roster going to the World Cup. We have not picked the 21 best players. I would like to emphasize that. We have picked the 21 that will do something fantastic together and bring out the best performance from each other. That’s why you look at seven defenders, seven midfielders and four forwards. As I said, it’s been extremely hard but at the same time I have to say that those I talked to, I hope my conversation gave some sort of inspiration because there are Olympics coming up, just around the corner.”

On whether there are alternates on the roster:
“Not yet. There will be 30 on that roster but we have not named those 30 yet.”

On how problems with the WPS have affected selecting the roster and the team’s preparation for the World Cup:
“We adjust our schedule compared to what we have. In 2008 we didn’t have a league and this year we do. I just love soccer, and I think the fact that we do have some foreign players playing in this country for WPS is cool and I think in the long run that will be something that improves the women’s game. Just look on the men’s side. If you look at Chelsea for instance, how many Englishmen do they have on the team? That has improved the men’s game. You mix the cultures, and I’m a big fan of that. Of course it’s been a little bit trickier with WPS. Now I can’t decide everything because they have clubs and another coach, but I’m up for the challenge to find the best way and work with it and have a great World Cup.”

On whether or not having fewer WPS teams is an issue:
“It is what it is and you try to work around it and work with it. I would say that in a perfect world, we would have more teams. Not only in the states but also in England and in South Korea there’s a league and even in North Korea. If you have a girl who wants to be a professional player she has a chance to do that, so the more the better.”

On how difficult it will be for the U.S. Women to win the World Cup this year given how much other teams across the globe have improved:
“It will probably be the most difficult World Cup to win ever. The reason for that and we think it’s a very good thing, is that FIFA started the World Cup for the U-20s and now we have one for the U-17s as well. So many countries have started to put money behind their programs for girls and women. If you look at a team like Colombia for instance, they played last year in Germany with the U-20s and did well and now they qualified for this year’s World Cup. So it will be harder and harder, which makes it even better for us because it’s challenging and we’re all up for the challenge. It’s good for the women’s game. I absolutely love it.”

On whether or not fans will have unrealistic expectations for the U.S. since it is ranked No. 1 in the world:
“I don’t know if it’s fair or not but I love the fact that so many people, not only Americans, expect that the U.S. will win that final. That’s a good thing. We like high expectations, but I will say that it will be tough and hard, but we will find a way to win.”

On Rachel Buehler’s role with the U.S. Women’s National Team:
“I saw her for the first time in 2008, and the first time I saw her we didn’t pick her. But after that she has become very professional and she has worked on several things and now she’s very important for the national team. She didn’t play that much in the Olympics, but she will play many minutes in the World Cup. The reason for that is one, her attitude, she never lets you down. She’s a great defender and one of the best in the air defending. She is very loyal to the team and the game plan and she’s tough. We tried her as outside left back or right back but today we look at her as center back, because you need a strong central line. She is a part of that central line and she’s strong and will help this team win.”

On whether or not the team will change its style of play heading into the World Cup:
“We talk about two things, changing the point of attack and changing lines. That means we need to be comfortable, and in order to do that we need to gain some time and it’s all about looking for spaces. Soccer is all about looking for spaces. We are trying, and we talk about keeping possession quite a bit and keeping rhythm in order to be dangerous because many teams keep possession but they don’t control the game. We want to keep possession and control the game. That means you need sharp defending as well. I think the challenging thing is keeping possession compared to turnovers. Let’s say you win the ball in the attacking third. In your mind, you have key possession. I would say that isn’t a good idea because you need to penetrate and get organized. I think that is one thing for this team to balance, taking chances and settling down and finding a rhythm. We are trying and we have a couple more games and more training to work on that.”

On whether any players were picked for World Cup roster because of their performance for their WPS team:
“We’ve talked about Becky Sauerbrunn, and Amy LePeilbet is another player that I thought was also one of the best players two years ago in the league. She dealt with any kind of attacker and those two are ones who have made the team. I also want to stress the fact that every player on the national team has to deal with different cultures. That’s why I support the league and I hope it will stay there forever.”

On Christie Rampone’s role on the team:
“She is our captain and I respect her tremendously, not only as a captain and player but also as a person. She means a lot, and when you talk about bringing out the best performances from each player on the team, she’s the one that does that. She creates an environment where it’s a pleasure to be around her. She’s important for the team.”

On Hope Solo’s role in this year’s World Cup roster:
“Hope Solo is coming back from injury and we are happy with what we see. Of course I’ve talked about the last World Cup with her, and between then and now we had the Olympics in 2008 and the way she played, saving a ball in the final. Right now I’m very happy with what I see. She and the other two goalkeepers will do some more work and we’ll be prepared for North Korea on June 28.”

On what it’s going to take to win this World Cup, and to win it in Germany:

“We believe, as a team, that this is going to be one of the best events women’s soccer has ever seen. Of course, we can go back to ’99 and only one player on our roster has won a world cup title and for me, personally, I take that to heart. Personally, I would feel very unhappy and unsatisfied with a career without a World Cup championship, so I will be doing whatever I can if called upon by our head coach, Pia, to make sure that we’re standing at the top podium at the end of this tournament. It’s not going to be easy. It will be the most difficult world championship to win, world cup or Olympics and I’m excited to get started. I think that we’ve got 50 days starting from now until the start of the World Cup and it’s going to be an amazing tournament. But what is it going to take? It’s going to take some guts. It’s going to take some luck. It’s going to take some skill, some goals, some defending. You have to do everything. The truth be told, I think the team that’s going to be able to deal with the most problems of maybe not doing so great in one half of a game or even a full game, the team that can deal with that adversity is going to be the team, probably, that will win this World Cup.”

On how to instill the hunger for a World Cup championship in 12 players who have never played in a World Cup before:
“With all due respect to the ’99 team and Christie [Rampone] who was on that ’99 World Cup championship team, I think that what this team wants to do is define itself and to win a championship based on the path that those pioneers paved for us. We want to do it on our own and I think that’s something they all want for us too. I was just speaking with Julie Foudy and I know Mia [Hamm] and I know Lil [Kristine Lilly] and they all say the same thing: this team needs to win a World Cup to put itself on the map. I want to be a part of that and I know that everybody on this roster wants to be a part of it. It’s going to take some guts and it’s not going to be easy. Nothing in life is ever handed to you. We’re willing to work for it. This is obviously a process. We’ve had some bumps in the road but those things are all accepted open-armed because they’re going to make us stronger in the end.”

On overcoming the bumps in the road and the obstacles presented during 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying:
“Whenever I think about adversity, it’s not about what actually happens, it’s how you handle it and how you deal with it. For us, we were given a second chance and we talked a lot about that. I think a lot of us sat with that feeling for a long time. We had an off-season after we eventually did qualify. For me, we can’t squander this chance because not many times do you get a second chance at doing something great and I’m privileged and honored to be able to take the field with my teammates and to be on this World Cup roster. I think that, moving forward, it did test us but that’s what this team always does. We fight. We’re resilient women and we’re not willing to go down without a fight. I think that the team that’s going to be standing at the top podium at the end of this World Cup is the team that is fighting for each other and the ones that get through the most adversity.”

On Becky Sauerbrunn:
“I think she’s one of the most consistent players that I’ve ever played with. She’s very calm, cool, collected on the ball, and as a forward going against a defender who is confident and technical on the ball, there’s probably nothing more frustrating when defending them. She’s a player that I go against quite often, and have for the last three years, on a consistent basis. I’m proud of Becky for staying with it. It’s not easy, mentally, to get called in three years ago and now getting her first shot at playing on a World Cup roster and in a World Cup. I’m proud of her because it just shows the strength and the fortitude of this person. She’s just a strong, great woman. I’m really, really happy for her.”

On the differences of preparing for a World Cup compared to an Olympic tournament:
“The only wrinkle, I would say, is that there are two years between tournaments, between the end of the Olympics and the beginning of the World Cup. So, the timeframe in preparation is a little bit different as opposed to the timeframe in preparation for the Olympics. For me, everything else is the same because it’s a world championship. You always want your body to be 100 percent healthy, 100 percent physically fit, your mind to be right, psychologically, emotionally. You want everything to be peaking at the right time under those circumstances.

On whether playing in Germany and working on improvements on her own hardened Ali Krieger in a different way:
“I absolutely think it hardened her in a different way. It would be like doing something completely on your own and in your own way. She’s the first person who has ever done that on this team so she’s paving her own path to her national team experience. I think that for us, staying together playing in the WPS, it provides a level of security because we can, literally, reach out and touch the other person. So with her, to be oversea, no less, to be living in a foreign country, to be learning a new language and to be playing in a different style of play, all of the factors considered, it makes this team stronger. It makes Ali Krieger strong, more confident and a player who I think is going to do a lot of great things for this team.”

On whether or not having a women’s professional league in the United States helps the national team more in preparation for the World Cup:
“We can sit and talk about what’s better or worse all day long about every situation that comes up in life. Our team wants to talk about what we’re doing and what we’re doing is playing in a league right now. We have to go on the weekends to play in those games and during the week were playing with the national team. For some that might seem chaotic. But like I’ve said before, when we’re standing up on top of that podium at the end of the World Cup and getting that gold medal wrapped around our necks, all of the sacrifice and all of the hard work and all of the effort by everybody, not just the players, the staff has to travel and be away from their families, the organization and the finances it takes for all of this to actually happen for us to get to Germany, that feeling will always be worth it and in the end that’s what we’re all looking for.”

On the importance of seven magicJack players on the World Cup roster:
“A lot of us have had many minutes played together over the course of our careers. I know Christie Rampone, myself, Shannon Boxx and even Lindsey Tarpley, we’ve all played together for so long. Becky Sauerbrunn and I have also played on the same club team for the last couple of years. I’ve had a lot of experience with everyone. More minutes and more time played makes even the slightest difference. Those moments are important. The club team situation is greatly different than the national team. I am really excited to be playing with so many of my club team members, but playing on the national team is totally different with the way we play, the style and of course the coach and all of the other players that are on the national team.”

U.S. midfielder HEATHER O’REILLY
On how to instill the hunger for a World Cup championship in 12 players who have never played in a World Cup before:

“I think that the tradition of this program is so strong and so rich so that whether or not a player was involved in 2007 or 2003, it’s about this national team program and the program hasn’t won since ’99. I think that anybody part of this team knows that and feels that. We’re all, obviously, very competitive athletes and individuals, but I think as a program collectively, we’re on a search for gold.”

On Becky Sauerbrunn:
“She has inspired me as a teammate. I think that nobody has arrived at this level, I think we’re all still getting better. I think that most people on our team would agree that Becky is probably our most improved player over the last six months to a year. I think that she’s really stepped up her game, her long balls and accuracy have improved tremendously. I’m definitely really proud of her for that.”

On the differences between preparing for a World Cup compared to an Olympic tournament:
“I agree completely with Abby. That’s a common question people are always asking: ‘what means more to you, a World Cup or an Olympics?’ It really is very level. I think a World Cup is probably a pinnacle of your career as a soccer player, so that’s what makes this tournament really special. People are just focusing on the women’s game and that’s very cool. I think the way we’re preparing is exactly the same.”

On the recovery process and what she is doing to keep from getting jet-lagged:
“I think that the interesting mix of this summer, between the WPS and the national team, didn’t take us by surprise. We knew what it was going to take to balance the two and we’re looking at it as a very positive thing for women’s soccer on both teams. That being said, I think it’s very important to take care of our bodies and make sure that we’re getting enough rest in between all of our matches. We have our fitness coach, Dawn Scott, who has been extremely diligent to schedule enough rest days, even when we were down at the Florida camp. Not everyone was doing the same workouts because WPS games were scheduled differently. Some players were playing more minutes than others. Everything was sort of tailored to everyone’s individual needs and I think that diligence will really pay off.”

On whether or not having a women’s professional league in the United States helps the national team more in preparation for the World Cup:
“Residencies of course have their benefits: we’re in the same city and we’re training day in and day out together. The benefit of the players being leaders on their respective [WPS] teams is pretty massive as well. It really is difficult to compare. I know for myself, playing in the WPS has stretched me in different ways that I couldn’t get by just playing in a residency, so I think there are definitely pros and cons to it. In the end this is going to be a pretty awesome summer for women’s soccer.”

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