The U.S. women’s national team defeated Australia 6-2 in an international friendly Wednesday night, but the victory was overshadowed by a bittersweet parting with coach Pia Sundhage, who is set to return home to coach Sweden starting December 1.
Sundhage, who happens to be gay, coached the U.S. team to two Olympic golds and a World Cup Final appearance, but midfielder Carli Lloyd knows that’s not the only reason she will be missed. "She just brings so much joy and is such a pleasure to be around, and it's contagious.” Lloyd told the Denver Post. “It's tough to know she won't be around us anymore.”
Despite her success as the American head coach, Sundhage is looking towards what she considers to be her dream job and equates her return to homesickness above all. She leaves with no hard feelings, even from her veteran players. "It's a good, healthy parting,” says goalkeeper Hope Solo. “She's going to go back to her own country, where she's helped build this game, elevate it to a new level. There's not too much to be sad about. Of course, we're heartbroken that she's going, but at the same time she's fulfilling her dreams.”
As a goodbye gift, the team presented Sundhage with a guitar, which they each signed in a color she made them very familiar with: gold. In response, Sundhage said simply, “It's the best present I ever got.”
According to U.S. soccer federation president Sunil Gulati, a search committee is working to find Sundhage’s replacement. One could be selected as soon as next month.