The “Pia vs. her past players” subplot to Friday’s impending Women’s World Cup group stage match between Sweden and the United States jumped up a notch when ex-U.S. and current Sweden coach Pia Sundhage had some critical comments on some of the best U.S. players.
Sundhage said Carli Lloyd was a “delicate” player to coach, and that she didn’t like the “challenge” of Hope Solo’s off-field issues. She also said she’d be using Abby Wambach as the “best ever” substitute during this World Cup, as opposed to Jill Ellis’ choice to start the American legend.
Most of it was the sort of honest talk that is only damning because we’re so used to watered-down, politically-correct baloney. And in Wambach’s case, there’s literally nothing wrong with calling someone the best ever substitute. And what would you say about Hope Solo’s myriad distractions? I suppose nothing would’ve been a better choice, yet isn’t it almost worse to issue a “no comment” and leave it up to interpretation.
In any event, as Sundhage prepares for what will surely be a fired-up team — if there even is a level above “World Cup against our old coach” — she’s clarified her thoughts with slightly more polish (I guess). Here are some choices cuts culled from The Equalizer:
On Lloyd: “Carli Lloyd is a player like sometimes smarter than I am. That’s so interesting to see the message I’ve tried to give her and her role. Sometimes she thought about it and had some questions about it and she didn’t do what we were supposed to do. That’s exactly what coaching is about.”
On Wambach: “And when I answered the question in the context of where you are the coach of the U.S. team and just ended the Olympic gold medal 2012, what would you have done? I would make sure that Abby will last forever and ever.”
On Solo: “When it comes to Hope Solo, she’s a piece of work. That’s good as well. Because it’s – things happen around her. As somebody told, sometimes outside the field. But when it comes to two times 45 minutes, she is the best goalkeeper in the world. So why wouldn’t you try to make her happy and at the same time have a team spirit?”
Again, no issues here. Sundhage issued an interesting group of comments that inspire discussion. She doesn’t call anyone a bad person, player or teammate. Sundhage simply gives her opinion in a situation that, quite honestly, is far more of a distraction to the U.S. team than Sweden.
And she might be right which, you know, should make it even less controversial. To the field!