Sunday, September 30, 2007

Acoustic Blues

I'm practicing my guitar today. That reminded me that I mentioned once to Greg Ryan that I'm learning guitar. The coach plays (I've never heard him myself) guitar, sometimes bringing the instrument along to team events and playing for a while in the background.

I mention this because as much as I disagree with Ryan's choices in certain situations, I like a lot of things about him. He's always been unfailingly polite and articulate to the media. That's a professional courtesy some coaches don't bother with.

This article by the acting executive director of the players' union pretty much takes Ryan and the USSF to task for the USWNT's performance at the Women's World Cup.

The thing that goes unmentioned in the piece is that not being the federation's first choice is par for the course for U.S. soccer coaches. Bruce Arena wasn't the fed's first choice when he took the helm. Neither was Bob Bradley. Bradley was named interim coach first, as was Ryan. Unbeaten records for both men is a big part of what led the federation to name them as permanent coaches.

Ryan led the U.S. team to an impressive Algarve Cup victory in 2005, where they defeated Germany in the final (note how Ryan was praising Solo back then). Like Germany did in this World Cup, the U.S. didn't yield a single goal at that Algarve. That was an impressive accomplishment, and it's not hard to see how that could have convinced Bob Contigulia to hire Ryan. Also, at the time, when I interviewed a few of the players about the appointment, they seemed all for it. Abby Wambach especially emphasized that he knew the players and how they liked to play.

Then Ryan simply didn't lose, and it is hard to ever dismiss a coach who wins all the time.

Besides that detail, I understand the bias in this article is towards the players, but in the defense of Solo that is offered, nothing is said of how her teammates have turned on her. Also, I'm honestly not sure I buy the argument that the fed is responsible for the results of the team. Financially, the support the U.S. players get from the federation is substantial, especially when compared to what other countries' players get.

No, it's not millionare money, but I don't see the U.S. team having to work outside jobs like waitressing, as some on the Australian national team do. The Brazilians would love to have the support from their fed that the U.S. women enjoy. That said, it could always be better.

Obviously, the fed picks the coach, who then picks the players, so I guess the blaming of the fed isn't off completely, but it seems a stretch, especially since the present President didn't pick the coach.


Anonymous said...

What about the Galaxy and their 3 wins in a row...


Charlton Heston said...

Wow, what an amazing piece by Mark Levinstein. Sunil Gulati, Coach Ryan need to either be fired or resign. The turncoat Lilly and Abby need not ever be invited back to the national side.

It's true what one poster on BS said, when male athletes react a Hope Solo (rightfully did) they have options; the only place Hope could run to was myspace. Sad.

There is a huge upwelling of majority support for Ms. Solo, the same ones who are sick to their stomachs with the inept and backstabbing "leadership" of the WNT.

JT (Chicago) said...

AC, if you buy the argument that Ryan was unqualified for the job and was hired anyway, then you can put blame on the USSF for the result.

They obviously had time to think about the hiring since he was an interim boss. So, their sanctioning of his methods & strategy does make them repsponsible for the overall result - not winning the World Cup.

However, I agree with you that this article is self-serving. The players, though playing in a lousy system, could have tried harder to overcome it by raising their resisitence to it. They didn't change the system. They could have objected (through their captains) to the goalkeeper switch. The switch stood. They also could have refused to throw Solo out of the team's functions for the 3rd place match. They chose to defend the coach's decision. The leadership on this team failed, perhaps just thinking that they would be able to overcome everything if they just went on the pitch and won.

There's a lot of blame to toss around but the players shouldn't be completely off the hook and Levinstein's column, while enlightening, is only one (biased)view of the same event.

My Opinion Over Yours said...

Yeah, Ben has a point. What about the Galaxy? Definitely nnot making the playoffs, but they're playing the spoiler role just fine. Is the back line finally holding up or does Abel Xavier make them better by not playing?

JT (Chicago) said...

AC, just curious. What sort of reception do you think the USWNT will get when they roll into Portland, St. Louis, and Albuquerque in the next couple weeks for their victory Tour?

Will there still be 7-10,000 face painted, flag waving, fist pumping supporters hoping to see the US squad humiliate Leo Cuellar's ladies by 7-0 or so?

Or will it be a more subdued crowd, looking to let Ryan and his leadership team know that the actions in China were not to their liking?

16 years ago, the US squad returned from China with the World Cup and only one reporter was there, & too many Americans were aware of the victory, or who they were. Times change, no?

Fred said...

jt (et al)--I, for one (with tickets for the Portland "victory tour" match), am regretful for purchasing the tickets--simply due to the crap coaching/management decisions that have played themselves out in the last few days.

However, the kids are very excited to go (and being too young to understand what's going on), so it's not like we won't go now. My 6-yo son just this morning asked me 'Dad, why isn't #18 playing goalie anymore for the women's team?' and I struggled to find an appropriate answer that he could understand outside of "Her coach is a raving dumna55."

The upshot is that I'm trying to figure out the best way to approach the game, making it fun for my kids who shouldn't have to deal with the meta-crap, and yet somehow making a statement to the USSF.

I have a feeling if I bring a banner that reads "Worst Coach You've Ever Heard Of" or "Bring Back Solo" they would escort me from the stadium.

And wearing a bag over my head would pixx off my wife and confuse the kids.

So I might just end up wearing Red Green and White. And jeering Ryan (I'm assuming at this point his moronic behind will still be on the sideline). Any other good ideas?

RosyBlue said...

I asked this question yesterday, but I have a feeling it may have been overlooked because of the current heated debate. So, here's another go at it:

What is your background? Have you ever played soccer or another team sport, and if so, at what level?

Thanks. I find that a person's experience usually provides a useful context in which to understand their opinions.

L.B. said...

Yes and no. It can help in certain situations but having little or no soccer-playing experience shouldn't really be a prerequisite for having an opinion.

After all, few of us are politicians but we've all got opinions on how to run things politically.

RosyBlue said...

I am sorry, I should have addressed the question more directly--it was for Andrea.

Thanks again.

A.C. said...

I started kicking around a soccer ball at age three with my older brother. I could really relate to the recent soccer movie, "Gracie", because in high school, I played on a boys' team. I suffered a back injury my junior year (not in soccer) and that ended my playing days.
So in college, I switched over to writing about sports instead.