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Sundhage pushing her own style

U.S. coach Pia Sundhage took over in 2008 and led the team to a gold medal in that year’s Beijing Summer Olympics.

Associated Press

U.S. coach Pia Sundhage took over in 2008 and led the team to a gold medal in that year’s Beijing Summer Olympics.

SINSHEIM, Germany — The American women haven't looked the same since Pia Sundhage got her hands on them.

After years of getting the ball to their forwards and letting them overwhelm defenses with superior athleticism, Sundhage has injected a little European flair into the U.S. offense.

"I was always saying the States played a little too direct," said Sundhage, a Swede who is the first foreign coach of the U.S. women. "They've been very, very successful, don't get me wrong. So I wanted to change that, but it couldn't be too big of a change."

When the two-time World Cup champions play Colombia today, fans will see a possession-based offense. Instead of relying on the forwards to begin the attack, Sundhage wants the offense to develop in the midfield.

Think the fluid, pretty style of men's European club champion Barcelona, and you get an idea.

"Really knowing how to break down teams with many passes and much possession, truthfully that's the best way of defending is holding the ball," U.S. forward and former Florida star Abby Wambach said. "That's why Barcelona is so good. They literally force their opponents into submission because they always have the ball."

Opponents used to know exactly what was coming, regardless of who was in the U.S. lineup. But they were powerless. American forwards were bigger or quicker — or both — and more skilled.

But the rest of the world is closing the gap — witness two-time defending World Cup champion Germany. If the United States doesn't adapt, it risks finding itself pulled back into the pack.

"We need to be smarter. We need to do different things," Sundhage said. "Change the point of attack more than once. For me, the game is about rhythm."

She wants the ball to go to the center midfielders, usually Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx. Based on what they see, they can send the ball out to the flanks or up to a forwards. Or they can direct it back to a defender and start the process over again.

"I think it's good for our system," captain Christie Rampone said Friday. "We can't always rely on one thing."

Friday's matches

Jill Scott rallied England with a second-half goal and assisted on another for a 2-1 win over New Zealand in Dresden.

For more than an hour, England was in trouble against the heavy underdogs, who grabbed their first lead in three World Cup appearances. But midfielder Scott turned things around with a 63rd-minute header and a low pass to Jess Clarke for an 81st-minute winner.

England moved into second place in Group B with four points, behind Japan, which beat Mexico 4-0 in Leverkusen to reach the quarterfinals.

Homare Sawa scored the first hat trick of the tournament for Japan. Sawa, 32, is taking part in her fifth World Cup.

Today's schedule
Group When TV Matchup
13 C 8 a.m. ESPN2 North Korea vs. Sweden
United States schedule, Group C
When TV Matchup
14 noon today ESPN U.S. vs. Colombia
22 2:45 p.m. Wed. ESPN Sweden vs. U.S.


Women's World Cup

Top two in each group advance:

GROUP A

GP W D L GF GA Pts

France 2 2 0 0 5 0 6

Germany 2 2 0 0 3 1 6

Nigeria 2 0 0 2 0 2 0

Canada 2 0 0 2 1 6 0

GROUP B

GP W D L GF GA Pts

Japan 2 2 0 0 6 1 6

England 2 1 1 0 3 2 4

Mexico 2 0 1 1 1 5 1

New Zealand 2 0 0 2 2 4 0

GROUP C

GP W D L GF GA Pts

United States 1 1 0 0 2 0 3

Sweden 1 1 0 0 1 0 3

Colombia 1 0 0 1 0 1 0

North Korea 1 0 0 1 0 2 0

GROUP D

GP W D L GF GA Pts

Brazil 1 1 0 0 1 0 3

Norway 1 1 0 0 1 0 3

Australia 1 0 0 1 0 1 0

Equ. Guinea 1 0 0 1 0 1 0

Sundhage pushing her own style 07/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 1, 2011 10:47pm]
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