April Heinrichs, who has coached the women's soccer teams at the universities of Virginia and Maryland, today was named coach of the U.S. women's national team.
Heinrichs, 35, received a four-year contract. She fills the vacancy left when Tony DiCicco retired in November after leading the U.S. team to the 1996 Olympic gold medal and the 1999 Women's World Cup title.
Meanwhile, U.S. Soccer Federation Secretary General Hank Steinbrecher said representatives of the federation and the national team players are scheduled to meet Jan. 24 in Los Angeles or Philadelphia in an attempt to end a labor dispute that resulted in the Women's World Cup team members refusing to play in a recent tournament in Australia. "I expect, and I'm pretty optimistic, that we will have some movement," Steinbrecher said.
Heinrichs captained the U.S. team that won the first Women's World Cup in 1991, and because several members of that team are still on the national team, she will be coaching players who once were her teammates. She was selected over longtime U.S. assistant coach Lauren Gregg and University of Portland men's and women's coach Clive Charles, who also oversees the men's Olympic team. It was unclear whether Gregg will remain on the national team staff.
"For 12 years, I have been preparing to be the national team coach," Heinrichs said during a news conference here, noting that she has coached at every level, starting at the club level.
Heinrichs was an assistant to DiCicco for the 1995 Women's World Cup and 1996 Olympics. Since 1997, she has coached the girls under-16 national team.
She compiled a 52-24-10 record at Virginia, where she led the Cavaliers to four NCAA tournament appearances in as many seasons. Prior to that, she coached for five seasons at Maryland and one at Princeton. She has a 116-70-18 collegiate coaching record. She played collegiately at North Carolina, where she was a three-time all-American and a member of three NCAA championship teams.
In 1998, she became the first female player inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame.
"Our women's national team motto is to win forever," USSF President Bob Contiguglia said. "The decision that was made to choose April will definitely carry on that motto. . . . She has that same passion and confidence that Bruce Arena showed us when we chose him" to coach the men's national team.
U.S. team co-captain Julie Foudy said the players are excited to have Heinrichs as coach. "She is an incredible leader, gifted motivator and great tactician," Foudy said during a teleconference.
Heinrichs said the labor dispute between the players and the federation "hurts all of us," and she hopes it will be resolved soon. The players and the USSF have yet to agree on a contract since the last one expired after the Women's World Cup victory in July. The USSF sent a squad of younger players to the recent tournament in Australia.
The U.S. team's next game is against Norway on Feb. 6 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Heinrichs said she plans to invite 30 players to a training camp in Fort Lauderdale that will start Feb. 1.
Heinrichs said she knows that the players who are involved in the contract dispute "want to be out on the field. And I know that U.S. Soccer wants them out on the field. . . . And in that regard, I think we all feel an urgency" to resolve the contract dispute.
Heinrichs said she won't get involved in the negotiations.
Asked if the women's team players will be paid the same amount as the men's team players in the future, Steinbrecher said: "We will have a fair and equitable offer." He said several issues, such as housing and residency camp, have to be discussed. "Hopefully, the goal is to pay equally. But the goal also is to make money equally," said Steinbrecher, adding that the federation did not receive any money from the Women's World Cup. The national federations that qualify for the men's World Cup receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sport's world governing body.