Anson Dorrance’s world is still right here in Chapel Hill.
The surge of woman’s soccer in this country can be placed right in Anson’s lap after he built a dominant program here and cornered the market on the relatively few world-class recruits out there at the time. But, as I’ve said repeatedly, he created a monster.
When his juggernaut teams of the 1990s began getting national publicity and some TV time, girls looked to Mia Hamm and her teammates as their new idols. And when Dorrance coached the U.S. National Women’s Team to its first World Cup in 1991, the soccer world changed forever, mostly laced with Carolina blue.
Dorrance is well into his 60s but nowhere near retirement. In fact, he is following the trend of older coaches who still relate well with their players and use their experience to make them better at their jobs. His shares his new stadium with men’s soccer and both UNC lacrosse teams, but shouldn’t it still be named Anson Field?
The World Cup, Olympics and pro leagues have dimmed the college connections these days, but Dorrance still had former players on the U.S. team that took home the trophy in France. While Megan Rapinoe might have played at Portland and Alex Morgan at Cal-Berkeley, there were five Tar Heels on the roster for the World Cup from heading into knockout round to the championship match.
Tobin Heath, who played here from 2006-09 and won three NCAA titles, started at forward in the dynamic front line with Rapinoe and Morgan. The most recent U.S. World Cup Tar Heel is highly decorated Crystal Dunn, the super athlete who played for Dorrance from 2010-13 and starred for the 2012 national champions.
The other three of Dorrance’s latest World Cup players are back-up goalie Ashlyn Harris, tall athletic forward Jessica McDonald and reserve midfielder Allie Long. And two more one-time Tar Heels were also competing in France. Lucy Bronze, who in one season at Carolina won a national title, played for her native England. New Zealand featured former Tar Heel defender Katie Bowen, and the Netherlands team America defeated in the Cup final was coached by Sarina Wiegman, who played for Anson in the 1989-90 seasons.
So try to tell me Dorrance, who has coached here for five decades, is not the ultimate godfather of the sport.