%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%APRIL HEINRICHS, U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach
On how the existence of the WUSA helps the progress of the WNT: "The short term benefits of the WUSA for the women on our National Team are that they're getting daily, weekly training and a competitive environment. This is something that our women have not had since they were all in college. I think as a national team coach, what this means is that they come into training camp they will be fitter than they've ever been, sharper and more played in than they've ever been. It will allow us as a national team to not have to start at the beginning, so to speak, as most teams would when they come together like we used to, which was more of a pre-season. Now we're going to start with sort of a mid-season form."
On if there are any new candidates for the WNT based on their success in the WUSA: "Well, I think for the players that are younger that have not been previously identified through the national system, what they're getting is that they're learning how to be professionals. They're being taught by the best in the world; the best in the world in their sport, and many would argue, the best in the world in terms of their professionalism, their maturity, their community outreach, their role model skills. They're being taught at a very early age what it means to be a professional soccer player. Soccer isn't about just showing up to practice and showing up to games. It's about the sort of mental preparation you're putting into your game before training and after games. I think that they're, if you will, in sort of an apprentice role right now. I couldn't think of a better group of role models to be working with on a regular basis than the Julie Foudy's and Mia Hamm's and Kristine Lilly's and Kate Sobrero's of the world."
On if she's surprised about the standout performance of the foreign players in the WUSA: "No, I'm not the least bit surprised. You have to remember that this is club soccer. I would take it to another level and say all of the international players are standing out, including American players. Obviously, for some of us, we're so thrilled to watch a Homare Sawa and a Kelly Smith play, because we haven't seen them play. But also, we're seeing things from Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and a few of the American players. Tiffeny Milbrett, I just saw last weekend in Boston, and she was really the difference for her team. So all of the international players are at another level than the rest of the WUSA players. I think that over time, that will help our domestic players."
On the state of the WUSA: "For me, the most important thing I think is that it's an opportunity for me to go out and watch players; not just the players on the national team, but players who are pursuing a position on the national team. I'm really going out there in a scouting mode. I don't know that a national team coach has ever had the luxury of doing that in person. Before, we always left our scouting up to the youth development programs and, to a certain degree, our college soccer. So, I'm a fan of the WUSA. I love the games. I love them live. I love them on televison, too, but there's something missing when I watch it on TV. I usually get a ticket and sit in amongst the fans and have my pen and paper in hand and just watch and look at the big picture. The big picture is the shape, and what players are impacting the game, and what systems the teams are playing, and who's doing what. So I'm thrilled with the start of the league. I'm thrilled with the level of play. I think many think that maybe it wasn't as aesthetically pleasing in the first week or two. But let's be realistic here -- what league ever started where in week one or two they're playing their best soccer? I've been to a lot of games. In fact, I don't even know how many games I've been to, and I haven't seen a bad game yet. Every game has been great, every game has been competitive, every game has had its tactics and its personality players."
On the performance in the WUSA of the five former WNT players who were cut following the 1999 Women's World Cup: "I've only seen (midfielder) Tisha (Venturini) once, but that was only for about 20 minutes and then she broke her arm and has been out, so I have not seen her live since. I've heard that she's doing well. (Midfielder) Tiffeny Roberts is quintessentially Tiffeny Roberts. I love her personality, I love the way that she is playing for her team. She's putting everything she has out on the field, she's playing with great pride, she's playing 90 minutes of soccer, and she's one of a couple of players that's really carrying that team on her shoulders. She plays with great inspiration, so I love watching Tiffeny Roberts play. (Forward) Danielle Fotopolous has been a little quiet. I know that she's scored a couple of goals of late. But I think, if given more time, she can have a greater impact on the league. (Goalkeeper) Tracy Ducar, I've seen play live two times, and she's very, very steady. The position that she's in to keep her teams in games is very important for her team. (Goalkeeper) Saskia Webber, I've seen her play twice, I think. And in one game, I don't think it was her best game. I could see it in her body language, which was sort of, to use the lingo of that generation, to say 'My bad.' and I think that Saskia knew that she had made some mistakes. What I like about Saskia is that she works hard. She really works hard and trains hard, and that's what I'm hearing from her coaches as well."
On any of the aforementioned players' potential return to the WNT: "I think that I made the decision a year ago, and I'm not sure that I wouldn't go and change that decision. But this league, and I told them this in December (2000) when we knew we wouldn't see each other until June, one of the things I said to them was 'This league will give legs to some players who didn't think they had another two or three years in them. And this league will take the legs away from a couple of players who felt they had another two or three years in them.' And I think that still remains to be seen."
On the impact of the creation of the FIFA Women's Youth (Under-19) World Championship: "I'm just thrilled that FIFA has stepped up and really started to give the women's game another, if you will, 'injection.' With FIFA sanctioning that event, all the governing bodies around the world are increasing their funding, and U.S. Soccer is stepping up its funding for the U-19 program. This year, they're functioning as an Under-18 team, but we call them a U-19 team. The impact for the WNT with that particular age group is still probably five years away or more. Because the women's professional league will be developing certain national team players, our Under-21's and the college game will still be developing national team players. But it's going to be critical for the long run. If we get these players into a residency program like the Men's National Team when they're 16 and 17 years of age, they are going to be more technical. That's one of our weaknesses as a country. What we're going to see is the inclusion of a young player into the WNT like a Landon Donovan and some of these younger players like Conor Casey who are going off to the U-20 World Cup. They're now being able to make, at least on the surface because I don't know (MNT head coach Bruce Arena)'s thinking, a jump to the Men's National Team. You have to remember that all of our youth players don't have any world class experience. (Under-19 WNT head coach Tracey Leone)'s group will truly be the first group. Even our Under-21's only play about five games a year against international competition."
On possible burnout to be expected by the WUSA players with the regular season and international games: "Oh, no question. If you want to see the U.S. Women's National Team with burnout in their blood, just watch the tapes from October, November and December (2000). That was burnout. We were burnt. But we played 41 games in a 12-month period. And remember the travel they're doing (with the WNT). (In the WUSA), they're at home and sleeping in their own beds and it's different. There's much more stability to the life these women are leading right now than what we went through in the year 2000. I do think it's something that well have to be conscientious of, but I will tell you my honest opinion. For the players who have been on the national team for years, they will have an advantage over all of the other WUSA players because they will have been use to this grind. And so in July, and this is something I said to them back in December, the majority of the WUSA players are going to hit the wall. And our women (WNT players) will be getting stronger."
On the improvement of the Canada Women's National Team: "Understatement. Understatement. They beat the United States of America 3-1. To say that they've improved is, like I said, an understatement. They're a great team. Canada has, in my estimation, moved up to be one of the 10 or 12 teams in the world. They're playing regularly. They had a (membership) fee increase that has allowed them to have a national team for women at the U-15, U-16, U-17, U-18, U-20 and the full women's national team level, so they've increased their funding. The gap is officially closed. It closed back in 2000. Japan is a great team. I'm thrilled for a chance to play Japan in September (at the 2001 Nike U.S. Women's Cup) and see if we can improve upon our performance back in December 2000. The rest of the world has caught up, we can stop making it 'catching up.' I don't know the verbiage, but they've caught up."
On if she'll be attending the 2001 Women's UEFA Cup and/or the 2001 Nordic Cup: "I will. I will be there for the semi-finals and the finals, but not for the Nordic Cup. I've been with the U-21's for about three weeks, maybe a month, this whole year. So I feel like I've been with the U-21's and I want to spend my time in late July and August with the Under-16 (Women's) National Team. I've been in with the U-19's for two or three events, and I've been with the U-21's as I mentioned, so in August I want to get those U-16's."
On who will make up the WNT roster for the upcoming Independence Day Series (on June 30 and July 3): "This roster that I will be selecting for June will primarily be made up of WUSA veteran players and some new youth players. There are a lot of players out there that I'm keeping my eye on. I've spoken to the WUSA coaches and have been getting feedback from them on the players that they respect on their own team and players they're gaining appreciation on other teams. I'll be keeping my eyes on all of the players in that league. Pretty much if a player starts for her team, I'm going to keep my eye on her pretty regularly, but I know all of the players in the league right now, actually."
On former WNT defender/midfielder Sara Whalen's retirement from the WNT: "I think for Sara it was a healthy decision. She found it increasingly difficult to be on the national team with the commitment it required and discipline it required, the time alone that was required and the emotional investment. I think she found it increasingly difficult to be on the national team and be happy. So when she approached me with that thought, I whole-heartedly supported her. If you're not fully invested in your experience at the national team, whether as a starter or reserve player, the commitment is just too great. The toll on your life is too great to do it if you're not happy doing it."
On if she is planning on retooling the WNT now or later as the next WWC approaches: "I don't think we do either one. I think we do a little bit of both. We have veteran leadership. We have veteran players who have a wealth of experience who we'll keep our eye on over the next two years. So long as their performance is world class and what we think it can be, then they will be the core of that team. At the same time, we owe it to our game and we owe it to the women's national team to secure our position as one of the top teams in the world. We also have to invest in the future, so we'll do a little bit of both. We will identify younger players are a part of our future and bleed them in over time."
On the lack of a new crop of great young American playmakers: "I want to address that question, but I think what we have to do as a nation is address all of our weaknesses. But I will say that I'm not sure I see the next Mia Hamm coming down the pipe. We want to certainly address that, because we want to make sure we have personality players on the ball that can score goals for us. The reason I've avoided the central midfield position is that whenever I have a national team, I'd have 24 players. I'd start the camp and say 'How many of you guys play center mid?' Inevitably, 12 out of the 24 would raise their hands. What we have is a slew of central midfielders in this country. We have coaches who see them as their best players and stick them in the center, when we need more wing midfielder or flank players. There's a lot of aspects of our game that, if we want to remain as one of the top teams in the world, we need to address all of our needs."
On her perception of how the WUSA has been covered and treated by the media: "I think the lovefest with the WNT players continues. I think that the media has been very fair. I read the press releases and I go on the WUSA website, but I don't go too much deeper than that. The coaches could answer more about that on a local basis much more than I could. From what I read, it seems vary fair to me. I think it will be honest and I think the coverage in general has been tremendous."
On the difference between the start-ups of the WUSA and XFL and how the league has been perceived in comparison: "The difference between the XFL and the WUSA is that our women have been told for years that they couldn't do things. They have worked theirselves to the bone to give everything they have for it. My guess is with the XFL players, (the league) was just sort of presented to them and to the coaches and to the league, and they just had so much money they just threw it together. I'm not sure I would make any comparison at all between the XFL and the WUSA. The WUSA has been something of a 30-year plan in the making. The WUSA has been a total and entire ownership from the players from when they were pulling their mid-20's on up."