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U.S. team dismisses comments by Sweden coach Sundhage

 
Bull charging: USF’s Diana Saenz, right, playing for Costa Rica in Tuesday’s 1-1 tie against Spain, is among the college players getting international experience in the World Cup.
Bull charging: USF’s Diana Saenz, right, playing for Costa Rica in Tuesday’s 1-1 tie against Spain, is among the college players getting international experience in the World Cup.
Published June 11, 2015

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The U.S. national team is dismissing critical comments that former coach Pia Sundhage made about some of its players.

The Americans face Sundhage's current team, her native Sweden, in a Group D match Friday at the Women's World Cup.

In a story published Tuesday by the New York Times, Sundhage said she wouldn't start 35-year-old Abby Wambach at this point, and that Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo were a challenge, in Solo's case, "especially when it comes to trouble." Sundhage also praised defender Christie Rampone as the best captain she has seen, including herself.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis was asked about the report before a practice Wednesday afternoon.

"For me, all I do is focus on my players and my team and our preparation," Ellis said. "That's really where my mind is at. I think I've made it pretty clear that distractions don't really creep into my mind when I'm trying to prepare my players."

Sundhage coached the United States for five years, winning two Olympic gold medals.

Defender Lori Chalupny, when asked if the Americans would use the comments as motivation, said: "I think when you're in the World Cup, there's no extra motivation needed."

The old college try: Mariela Jacome was in Ecuador visiting her grandmother after her first season at St. John's when her uncle suggested she should kick the ball around with the country's national team. Six months later, Jacome is playing for Ecuador at the Women's World Cup.

Jacome is among several current U.S. college players playing for other nations at this event.

Like other first-time participants in the World Cup, La Tricolor isn't expected to go far — Ecuador got blown out 6-0 Monday by Cameroon — but Jacome is relishing the experience.

"I got tickets to the World Cup as a Christmas present and I was like, 'Oh my God, I got the best gift ever, I get to watch a World Cup game live,' " she said. "Now I'm playing in it. Absolutely insane."

Costa Rica has two players with USF ties, defender Diana Saenz and former Bulls midfielder Cristin Granados. Saenz, who played all 90 minutes in Tuesday's 1-1 tie against Spain, is set to be a senior in the fall. Penn State senior captain Raquel Rodriguez, born in Costa Rica, scored her team's goal.

Mexico's roster has 12 players with U.S. roots and several amateurs on college teams stateside.

Others include Alabama junior college transfer Celia Jimenez Delgado (Spain); Tennessee senior forward Hannah Wilkinson (New Zealand); and West Virginia juniors Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence, native Canadians who play for their country.