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Pia Sundhage Sits Down with ussoccer.com to Discuss Upcoming World Cup Qualifying Semifinal Match against Mexico


U.S. Women's National Team vs. Mexico
CONCACAF Women's World Cup Qualifying Tournament
Cancun, Mexico
Nov. 4, 2010

U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach PIA SUNDHAGE
Assessing the team after the first round:
"We scored many goals and allowed zero, which is good. At times we played some good soccer and kept possession. The first game we had good set pieces, which we worked on, but at times we struggled a bit, especially against Costa Rica. They gave us a good game. Sometimes you get frustrated, as players, because you think that with the way we prepared everything should go smoothly. But nothing comes to you easily and that is good. I wouldn't say it's a wake up call, but it's good for all of us to respect the opponents and respect the game. I'm very happy we have this chance to play the semifinal, where it's 'now or never.' It gives everybody the chance to step up a little bit and show the best soccer we can play."

Thoughts on Mexico, the USA's semifinal opponent:
"Mexico has interesting play up front. They're unpredictable, tricky and they love to take shots. That means we have to prepare defensively with our shape in the back and getting organized fairly early. Mexico has done different things depending on who they're playing. Against Canada they played some long balls in the beginning of the game and when they get the ball in the midfield they tried to keep posssession. We have to be prepared to for both situations. Our back four is solid as a rock so I think we can deal with anything. For our way of attacking, the pace of the play is so important. If we can change the point of attack, probe and be patient, then we have a great chance to win that game. I do believe [our best attack] comes from the wings. We need some crosses because, in the box, we are very good and that's where we can beat Mexico."

You've emphasized flank play. Are you satisfied with it so far?:
"No. We could ask a little bit more because we worked so much on flank play. The last game our service wasn't very good. We need to be patient and keep trying because if we can figure out how to use the wings to switch the point of attack and change lines, that will be a key point of attack going forward."

There are four forwards who have all scored during the tournament. Talk about your attackers: 
"One thing that's important is they're all very different. I've never been in this point before in my life, as a player or coach, where we have four forwards who are all scoring goals and all very different. For the coaching staff it gives us different things out there. One thing I try to emphasize is that all four act like a team and create a good environment. For example, if I'm a forward sitting on the bench and a forward scores a goal, if I can feel I was a part of that goal, that will strengthen this team tremendously. The young players have stepped up. Alex Morgan for instance, has come off the bench and made a difference and that is huge. Amy Rodriguez scored a hat trick the other day and Lauren Cheney is very different from the other three, so we can get something from all four of them."

How about the contribution of the center midfielders?:
"I am especially pleased with the way Carli Lloyd has been playing, coming off injury and not playing many 90-minute games. The first game I thought she played well. I talk quite a bit about the center midfield because I believe they have to be good on both sides of the ball, and they are. [Shannon Boxx] is solid as a rock and Carli makes things happen out there. If they can get things going and find their rhythym, then we will play great soccer. We also have Lori Lindsey who had a good season in WPS. She's different from the other two, which is good, looking for the final pass and changing lines more than anyone else. That's another component in the way we try to build a team. Don't forget Yael [Averbuch], she's played out wide but she's comfortable playing in the center. She has the ability to change the point of attack [so quickly] because the way she strikes the ball is world class. We get different things from different players."

On the team handling the pressure of the all-important semifinal version:
"I have faith in our team, of course, because they can rely on experience and the past. But at the same time, it's important to enjoy the moment. One thing I've learned from the players is if you challenge them, they go and do their very best and put it together as individuals and as a team. Everyone feels like a winner and together that is very powerful. I'm really looking forward to this very, very important game against Mexico.

You love games that matter. Expand on that:
"You look at the words 'it's now or never' and every decision you make out there is so important. You might make a decision early in the game and, in the last 10 minutes, play totally different because it's about the score. At the same time it's important to trust your playing style. If you don't, everything you've done coming into the big game has been a waste of time. My job is to make sure they remember what we talked about. This team has such high expectations but sometimes we push so hard instead of taking it easy. We can remember we're the best team in the world, take our time, have fun out there and pick up the rhythm. That is important, especially in a game that matters. If it's an even game, you coach differently but, in the beginning of the game, even though it's a game that matters, you have to use composure, trust what you've been doing and bring it to the game."

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