Replacing Pia Sundhage: Looking into the grab bag of candidates

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Now that we’ve had a chance to let Pia Sundhage’s move settle in, we can take a look at some of the candidates to replace her. Yesterday in The Guardian, Jeff Kassouf came up with a pretty good list. Here are some of the more interesting names:

Internal Candidates

Eric Walsh is a current assistant and the head coach at Penn State, who she leads to a conference title every year (the program’s won 11 straight Big Ten titles). Now in her fifth year as an assistant to Sundhage, she’s the stay-the-course candidate.

Jillian Ellis is the former head coach at UCLA and has served as the U.S. Soccer’s women’s development director since Jan. 2011. She led the Bruins to eight final fours appearances in 10 years and was an assistant on the 2008 gold medal-winning team.

Jeff picks out Marcia McDermott as a possible candidate – the former Carolina Courage coach having served as an assistant to Sundhage last year – but keep an eye on two former coaches. April Heinrichs, who led the team to gold in the 2004 Summer Olympics, is currently serving as the team’s technical director. With the profile of the head coach’s job never higher, she could be enticed into the fray, as could 1999 coach Tony DiCicco, who most recently served as head coach for the Women’s Professional Soccer version of the Boston Breakers.

Another name (not mentioned in Jeff’s piece) that has come up multiple places is former FC Gold Pride head coach Albertín Montoya, who currently serves as U.S. Soccer’s U-17 coach. Despite winning a WPS title, Montoya may be happy coaching younger players.

Speaking of Women’s Professional Soccer

Three respected names from the now-defunct league will stay on the tips of fans’ tongues. Aaran Lines guided Western New York to the last league title. Jim Gabarra spent a decade coaching the Washington Freedom, winning WUSA and W-League titles during a tenure that spanned three leagues.

The most interesting name is English coach Paul Riley, who impressed during his two season in charge of WPS’s Philadelphia Independence. Riley won Coach of the Year both seasons he was involved in WPS, a period when Lines, Gallas, and Dicicco were all coaching in the league.

Despite rosters that lacked the talent of his competitors, Philadelphia appeared in successive championship games. Riley may be best known for his outspoken media personality, at one time publicly questioning Sundhage’s handling of attacker Amy Rodriguez (then with the Independence), claiming the national team coach had destroyed his best player’s confidence. Though a fan favorite, Riley is a long shot.

And from the college ranks

Jeff brings up Florida State coach Mark Krikorian, but the real jewel in the college ranks may be Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum, who has won two national titles at Notre Dame since taking over the program in 1999. The only teams to win multiple national titles in the College Cup era are North Carolina (20), Notre Dame (3), and Portland (2), with Waldrum accumulating two of the Irish’s three titles in the last eight years. His .782 winning percentage is second to only North Carolina’s Anson Dorrance among Division I coaches with at least 250 victories.