By ANNE M. PETERSON
AP Sports Writer
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) _ The U.S. national team is dismissing critical comments that former coach Pia Sundhage made about some of the team’s players.
The United States is preparing to face Sundhage’s current team, Sweden, in a group-stage match Friday at the Women’s World Cup. Sundhage spoke about U.S. players including forward Abby Wambach and midfielder Carli Lloyd to The New York Times in a story published Tuesday.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis was asked about the report before a team practice Wednesday afternoon.
“For me, all I do is focus on my players and my team and our preparation,” Ellis said. “That’s really where my mind is at. I think I’ve made it pretty clear that distractions don’t really creep into my mind when I’m trying to prepare my players.”
Sundhage coached the United States for five years, guiding the team to a pair of Olympic gold medals as well as the final of the 2011 World Cup in Germany, which the United State lost to Japan on penalty kicks.
In the Times, Sundhage said Lloyd was a challenge and suggested that she wouldn’t start Wambach at this point in the popular veteran’s career. She also praised defender Christie Rampone as the best captain she’s ever seen, including herself.
Sundhage said goalkeeper Hope Solo was one of the most challenging players she’d coached “especially when it comes to trouble.”
Ellis said she hadn’t addressed the comments with the team.
“I just think we’re an incredible professional group, and the only focus for us is three points and our preparation to try to advance,” Ellis said.
Defender Lori Chalupny was asked if the U.S. team would use the comments as motivation Friday night.
“I think when you’re in the World Cup, there’s no extra motivation needed,” Chalupny said.