U.S. women’s soc­cer coach

TONY DiCICCO

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - as­so­ci­ated press news.obits@la­times.com

Tony DiCicco, who in a land­mark for women’s soc­cer coached the U.S. to the 1999 World Cup ti­tle be­fore an over­flow Rose Bowl crowd, has died. He was 68.

He died Mon­day at his home in Wethers­field, Conn., with his fam­ily present, son An­thony DiCicco said Tues­day on Twit­ter. No cause was given, although his fam­ily said he bat­tled health prob­lems in re­cent months.

DiCicco be­came the U.S. coach in 1994 and led the team to the gold medal at the 1996 At­lanta Games, the first Olympics to fea­ture women’s soc­cer.

He then guided a team filled with su­per­stars — women’s sports trail­blaz­ers such as Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Michelle Ak­ers — to the 1999 World Cup crown. In the fi­nal, the U.S. beat China, 5-4, on the win­ning penalty kick by Brandi Chas­tain in Pasadena be­fore 90,185 fans, by far the largest at­ten­dance for a women’s soc­cer game.

Su­nil Gu­lati, pres­i­dent of the U.S. Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion, called DiCicco “one of the most in­flu­en­tial coaches in U.S. Soc­cer history.”

“Tony’s pas­sion for the game as a coach, ad­min­is­tra­tor and broad­caster was al­ways ev­i­dent, and his re­la­tion­ships with ev­ery­one in the soc­cer com­mu­nity dis­tin­guished him as a com­pas­sion­ate and much-loved man,” Gu­lati said. “U.S. Soc­cer will for­ever be thank­ful to Tony for his vast con­tri­bu­tions to the game.”

Foudy said DiCicco was among the “won­der­ful gems” in her life and was “al­ways about fam­ily.” She said DiCicco would walk on the field and say, “I love my job.”

“He con­trib­uted to our abil­ity to spread joy and en­thu­si­asm,” Foudy said. “That was Tony — hav­ing fun and con­stant laugh­ter. He was such a hum­ble and un­der­stated guy.”

Chas­tain, whose cel­e­bra­tion af­ter the win­ning kick in 1999 be­came an iconic photo, posted a lov­ing trib­ute on Face­book.

“Thank you Coach for all you have given to every player you ever met, as well as for giv­ing a shin­ing ex­am­ple and role model of how to be a ded­i­cated par­ent, how to be pas­sion­ate about your job as well as tire­less in the pur­suit of ex­cel­lence,” she wrote.

DiCicco is a mem­ber of the Na­tional Soc­cer Hall of Fame. He is the win­ningest coach in U.S. Soc­cer history by per­cent­age as well as the only coach to win more than 100 games. He went 103-8-8 from 1994 to 1999. Af­ter leav­ing coach­ing, he did television work.

In 2008, DiCicco took over the U.S. Un­der-20 women’s team and led it to a world ti­tle.

Amanda Duffy, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions for the Na­tional Women’s Soc­cer League, lauded DiCicco.

“Tony will be re­mem­bered for his im­mense pas­sion, his ded­i­ca­tion to the game and his life pur­suit to in­spire play­ers and peo­ple,” she said. “A truly in­flu­en­tial fig­ure, no one will for­get the im­pact he has had on so many peo­ple’s lives and his role in the tremen­dous growth of women’s soc­cer in the U.S.”

DiCicco was the goal­keeper coach on the first Women’s World Cup cham­pi­onship team in 1991. In 1994, he took over the squad and led the Amer­i­cans to a third-place fin­ish at the 1995 World Cup in Swe­den.

From there, his team swept the next two ma­jor events, spark­ing a level of in­ter­est in the women’s game never seen be­fore in this coun­try.

And he played a lead­er­ship role in the start of women’s pro­fes­sional soc­cer leagues in the U.S. In 2001, he was chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for the Women’s United Soc­cer Assn., which played from 2001 to 2003. He was the league’s com­mis­sioner in 2002 and 2003.

He coached the Bos­ton Break­ers in Women’s Pro­fes­sional Soc­cer from 2009 to 2011.

DiCicco was born in Wethers­field and grad­u­ated from Springfield (Massachusetts) Col­lege in 1970, where as a goal­keeper he was an All-Amer­i­can, cap­tain and most valu­able player his se­nior year. DiCicco earned a mas­ter’s de­gree from Cen­tral Con­necti­cut State in 1978.

He played five years as a pro in the Amer­i­can Soc­cer League with the Con­necti­cut Wild­cats and Rhode Is­land Ocea­neers. In 1973, he toured and played for the na­tional team.

His fam­ily said in a state­ment on Twit­ter: “In honor of Tony’s life, we ask that the emo­tion evoked by his pass­ing be chan­neled to­ward the ideals he em­bod­ied: in­tegrity, com­pas­sion and love.”

He is sur­vived by his wife, Diane, and four sons: An­thony, An­drew, Alex and Ni­cholas.

John T. Greil­ick As­so­ci­ated Press

A TEAM OF SU­PER­STARS Tony DiCicco coached the U.S. women to the 1999 World Cup ti­tle at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

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