The United States Women's national team will play Australia on Sunday at the Home Depot Center in the second of their post-Olympics victory lap. The game itself is at best second fiddle to the fact that this will be a chance to send of departing head coach Pia Sundhage in style.
Sundhage will return to her home nation of Sweden and take over as the head coach of their women's national team on December 1st after five highly successful years in charge of the US team. She'll coach Sunday's match and Wednesday's match, also against Australia, before officially resigning. So Sunday will be another chance for her players and fans to show their appreciation for what Sundhage has accomplished during her time with the team.
When Sundhage took over the national team in 2008, things were a mess in the wake of the 2007 World Cup. Sundhage effectively managed the transition of the squad to a new generation of players and led them to virtually every trophy possible, minus another coveted World Cup title. I for one, and virtually everyone else who follows the team, do not hold that failing against her and you shouldn't either.
Instead we should remember Sundhage as a coach who turned around the national team program and prevented it from going in to a fairly embarrassing slide. We should remember her for the accomplishments, for the two Olympic goal medals and more importantly, for making the national team not only successful, but fun. It wasn't always perfect, it wasn't always painless, but it was was everyone needed and she'll leave a sizable pair of shoes to be filled for the next head coach.
So Sunday's match should be enjoyed by USWNT and soccer fans alike as another chance to celebrate this team's accomplishments and to thank Pia Sundhage for five excellent years of service. She deserves it and that's what this tour is all about.
Date/Time: Sunday, September 16th (3:30PM ET).
Venue: Home Depot Center, Carson, CA
TV: NBC (USA).