Thursday, June 22, 2017
American soccer player Brandi Chastain ripping off her jersey and falling to her knees ended up as the most iconic moment of the 1999 Women's World Cup. Chastain had just kicked the game-winning penalty, defeating China for the U.S. women's second World Cup victory.
Chastain, Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Michelle Akers and more superstars made up the 1999 team that was tied with China before winning 5-4 on penalty kicks. The U.S. women entered the tournament coming off winning a 1996 Olympic gold medal 2-1 over China in Atlanta.
While many people remember the women on the field, fewer people talk about the legendary coach behind them—Tony DiCicco. On Monday, June 19, his family announced that he died from cancer at the age of 68.
In his youth, DiCicco was an All-American at Springfield College in Massachusetts, where he was the team captain and named Most Valuable Player. He played five years in the American Soccer League for the Connecticut Wildcats and the Rhode Island Oceaneers. In 1973, he toured with the U.S. Men's National Team.
The Wethersfield, Conn., native began coaching for the U.S. Women's National Team as the goalkeepers' coach in 1991 and was with the team for its first World Cup victory over Norway that year. In 1994, he took over as head coach and led the team to a third-place finish in the 1995 World Cup.
In the 1999 World Cup, DiCicco had to accomplish two of the hardest things to do in sports: manage the egos of a team filled with superstars and keep his team mentally on track as one of the huge favorites to win the whole tournament.
One big change in the 1999 World Cup, which was on home soil, was that DiCicco listened to his players' beliefs that they had over-trained in the previous tournament. The team played in front of huge crowds with more than 90,000 spectators packing the Rose Bowl for the championship game. In comparison, the U.S. women won the Olympic gold medal in front of more than 76,000 fans.
After the World Cup win, DiCicco resigned as head coach to spend more time with his family. He became the chief operating officer of the Women's United Soccer Association in 2001, and the league promoted him to commission in 2002 and 2003.
DiCicco returned to the national team in 2008 to help lead the Under-20 Women's National Team to a victory in the U-20 World Cup. That team featured current national team stars Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Meghan Klingenberg and Alyssa Naeher.
During his time as a national team head coach, DiCicco compiled a 103-8-8 international record and had the most wins in U.S. soccer history by nearly 90 percent. He was also the only coach to win an Olympic gold medal and World Cup, and to win more than 100 games.
During his career, DiCicco also worked for both ESPN and Fox Sports on game commentary and as an analyst, and he coached the Boston Breakers in Women's Professional Soccer from 2009 to 2011. U.S. Soccer inducted him into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012.