February 13, 2016
By Michael Lewis
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS, QUALITY
Mexico coach Cuellar: USA can field two teams in the top 10 of the world
FRISCO, Texas -- The United States women's national team doesn't rebuild, they reload.
Perhaps no one knows this better than the leader of one of the Americans' biggest CONCACAF rivals, Mexico head coach Leonardo Cuellar.
"Definitely we have our hands full to play against the best team in the world," Cuellar said Friday after practice, a day before Saturday's Group A confrontation the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship. "It's a big challenge for our program, but at the same time we are excited to have the opportunity to be on the field with the best."
The USA has undergone a sizeable transition since winning the world championship last year. Four players have retired from the Women's World Cup championship side, including striker Abby Wambach, midfielders Lauren Holiday and Shannon Boxx and defender Lori Chalupny. Two players won't play at all this year due to pregnancies -- forwards Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez -- and two others are recuperating from knee injuries -- midfielder Megan Rapinoe and defender Christie Rampone.
Yet, after watching the USA register a 5-0 triumph over Costa Rica in its group opener Wednesday night, Cuellar hasn't seen any drop off in their play with the next generation of players making an impact.
"There are thousands of great players in this country," he said. "We know you can probably put two teams and those two teams would finish in the top teams in the world. So that's how deep they are in talent. Difficult because when you have new players, they are hungry and they want to step [up] and want to be on the same level of the superstars."
He hoped that the momentum his side gained from its opening match, a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico, will continue against the USA.
"We had some goals that were very nice," he said. "On our first goal we put 20 passes together, so that's speaks very well about the team work. That has been the commitment to this group. It has been very nice to see their energy and all their good intentions because no matter who you play, the first game always sets the tone."