Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Great Distraction

Well, I'll be the first to admit that I've gotten caught up in the Hope Solo situation, but ultimately, I do think it's a sideshow that obscures the big picture - which is an important one that needs to be addressed.

Out of respect for our readers' views - what do you think should happen now to the USWNT program? What changes, or not, would you make if you were in charge?

28 comments:

L.B. said...

I would start with a new coach, though I can't offer up a name.

However, I don't think Sunil Gulati will make a change. I think he'll say something like "Greg Ryan did not become a bad coach in one game" and we'll have him around for the next year or two or five.

Beax Speax said...

As much as I agree with her comments, I think Solo needs to apologize for her comments. Her USWNT career is at stake...she has nothing to lose by doing so and can save somme face....no need to let pride get in the way now that she's the scapegoat for the team's failure.

Without question, Ryan needs to go. There is just no way anyone can justify his decisions. His personnel decision basically told the team "I don't think you're good enough to beat Brazil straight-up, so we have to win with my strategy." He had his opportunity at pinnacle of coaching and he blew it...badly!

I fully expect US Soccer to over-think this decision-like it does with most things. I'm sure they'll rationalize that things can't be changed with the Olympics a year away..blah blah blah...The federation seems more worried about image than substance for "The Best You've Never Heard Of."

Anonymous said...

Btw, Hope has already apologized on her myspace page AND in a team meeting several days ago.

A.C. said...

Beax, according to ESPN on the broadcast, and Hope's own teammates, she has apologized. What's less clear is how many on the the team have forgiven her.

I agree with Luis and would add that the Fed might never have envisioned such a huge fiasco at the Cup. I'll bet they have no ready choices as replacements.

Beax Speax said...

I was unaware that Solo had apologized. Thanks for that info Andrea. That's why you're a great reporter and I'm just a fan venting on a blog....

Joan said...

I think they can start by firing their press officer, Aaron Heifitz. I've never been impressed with the job he's done and he's always come off as kind of a jerk.

Second, unless Greg Ryan admits to all his huge and obvious mistakes, he should be fired immediately or only allowed to stay until his contract expires. His comments about the U.S. being "behind the eight ball" from the beginning just shows he had no confidence in his team and no idea what to do in a tournament setting with everything on the line.

I don't know who should replace him. There are many candidates but I can't see many who would be willing work under this... administrative model. It's a shame Clive Charles is not alive. His successor, Garrett Smith, is good and has trophies to his name, but is still inexperienced.

Third (the most unlikely scenario), the team should apologize to their supporters for letting them down. Not for failing in the Cup, but for being so very quick to sell out a teammate and failing to be the great role models they consistently claim to be.

GoStLouis said...

I can't predict what factors Sunil Gulati will consider. One factor is certain: a new head coach would insist on a salary higher than $175K.

I would love to see any of the following:

a) Coach Foudy
b) Coach Lilly
c) Coach Klinnsman

Anonymous said...

The goalkeeper "controversy" is a side issue. This is about a U.S. team that was technically inferior to North Korea, Brazil, and Germany. It is a team with no speed on the flanks. It is a team that is subject to shoddy defending. It is a team where Shannon Box is supposed to be the big go-to person. She is a slow, plodding type of player, not unlike many on this year's national team. Greg Ryan can pick anyone he wants to play in goal. I don't care if they had put Kasey Keller in goal in the Brazil game, it wouldn't have made any difference. What you saw was a technically brilliant team against a team that didn't look good against anyone the whole tournament. Hope Solo looked shaky in most games she played. Ryan knew that they would be facing a great many shots and a furious Brazil attack. Therefore, he took one Shakey Solo out of goal and went to a veteran shot stopper - and she did just fine. Nothing Briana Scurry did or did not do affected the outcome postively or negatively. If people would quit trying to turn this into a gender issue perhaps they could understand. Ryan in no way deserves any criticism whatsoever. While I would not have changed a goalkeeper that late in the game, I wasn't there at practice and, in any case, Ryan can do what he damn well pleases. Solo isn't a very good goalkeeper period. They won't miss her. And to those who keep whining on her behalf, enough already. By the way, for those who say that male athletes speak their mind all the time, name me ONE male athlete who, after not getting into the starting lineup, then says point-blank that a situation that occurred on the field would not have happened if they had been out there. I've never seen it. That's the difference in whiny Solo complaining like a little kid and then sitting on the bench with her arms folded like a teenager who was just told they can't take the car out. This is pro sports; this isn't a gender-equity campaign. Give it a freaking rest.

A.C. said...

Both Kahn and Keller did object to their demotion from starting goalkeeper during the World Cup tournament. They weren't replaced at the tournament itself, but just before. However, they complained while the tournament went on. The coaches (Arena and Klinsmann) let them air their gripes and then let it pass.

From the New York Times:
While Friedel played in the 2002 World Cup, Keller seethed, complaining that team officials had misled him about playing time. When asked at the time if he could appreciate how well Friedel was playing, Keller said: "Oh, I don't know. You always think you can do better."

From GermanWOrld online:
The 37-year-old Kahn will be on the substitutes bench again for Friday's quarter-final clash with Argentina and said he was still perplexed at playing second fiddle to Jens Lehmann. "I have told him (Klinsmann) clearly that I will never comprehend why I am no longer number one," said Kahn, who was number one choice when Germany made the 2002 final losing 2-0 to Brazil. "I would have expected a full explanation. But as there has not been one yet, there probably never will be."

FC Uptown said...

Gulati should fire Ryan for extending the sideshow indefinitely now past the WWC and creating a civil war type atmosphere within the team. Solo not even allowed to go to the game? Pure chicken-shitte move by Ryan. Stop being a drama queen and act like a man! The Mourinhos and Alex Fergusons of the world deal with stuff like this before 9am every single day.

Longshoe said...

I just love anonymous comments...

Andrea pointed out examples of male athletes saying something similar. For another female athlete, look no farther than Scurry herself who made similar comments when Siri Mullinix beat her out in the 2000 Olympics. It happens.

Solo clarified that she wasn't attacking Scurry, but the decision itself. She apologized to both the team and the fans, I think excluding her from the game today after that is very harsh.

Ryan and PR machine with US Soccer has been brilliant in their shifting of this issue away from Ryan's boneheaded decision to change the lineup and other mistakes to Solo's comments. The humiliating loss is almost an afterthought at this point.

I hope the decision makers at US Soccer take the whole debacle into consideration in their analysis. Ryan looked like he was in over his head throughout the tournament. I don't think we can wait to see if he learns from this on the job, it could cost the team the gold medal next year.

Anonymous said...

Here's a great article from a few years back where Scurry calls out Mulinix and ays they would have won if SHE had been playing:

http://www.usateamhandball.org/11723_22487.htm

I say this is Karma coming back on Bri.....


And that Hope got a raw deal. I say fire the coach because that is the only way she or any other players will get a fresh and fair look in the future.

By the way, I find it interesting that Lilly is so quick to sound off on a teammate speaking out when she went through the same stuff years ago when she called out the coach at the time and the tactics being used.

Fire Ryan and move on.....

Anonymous said...

First thing they should do is let Ryan go. Not only because of the whole Goalkeeping fiasco, but he prefers to play a more direct style, which does not place much emphsis on the midfield. As we have seen in the semifinal and finals, if you can control the midfield, you can control the game.
Look how well Germany played today. They pretty much controlled the midfield and played swarming defense. They didn't give the Brazillians the time or the space to start their runs and you could see how frustrated they became.

In terms of the US, the team is plays pretty solid defense, but has to improve in the midfield in order to be able to get the ball to the forwards. There alot of talent with Boxx, Chalupny, Lloyd, Kai,Tarply and even Wagner. You need to play a more possession type of game rather than just playing long balls in to Wambach and relying on set pieces.

Anonymous said...

Nice attempt at comparisons, but it none of those came in the heat of the moment, right after a loss. Of course, goalkeepers complain, but they don't call out their teammates minutes after the competition. Get it? I repeat, Solo is a whiner and, most important, not a very good goalkeeper. If you believe that the goalkeeper choice lost the Brazil game, then you have no idea of what you are talking about. I'm out on this.

A.C. said...

If you think that the goalkeeper who led the team to an undefeated record isn't very good, you're on your own there.

Nice try at looking for new conditions to put on examples that prove your argument is bogus. Trust me, it happens all the time.

Have you ever watched a soccer game? You'll see players scream at one another after someone takes a shot, "What the hell? I was wide open! Pass the @#*#* ball." And in the locker room, they say the exact same thing if I ask them what went wrong in the game.
Doesn't anyone remember when Juan Pablo Garcia pitched an absolute fit after Bob Bradley pulled him in a game last season? Bradley shrugged it off, saying, "He's just a competitive guy."

Keeper said...

After reading the latest article at USAToday and this blog ( http://womenssoccerusa.blogspot.com/2007/09/ryan-lilly-and-wambach.html ), I am so completely disgusted by my national team. We need a clean sweep.

1) Ryan needs to go. That much is obvious.

2) Lilly and Scurry need to retire. Their contributes have been great, but it is time to move on.

3) Rampone and Markgraf need to step aside for younger talent. Dalmy was fantastic at right back, and there is loads of talent in this country.

4) Perhaps Boxx needs to step aside as well? I think Osborne outperformed her at this WC.

It is time for the younger generation to make this their team.

amberbs said...

First change I would make, and everyone with a brain would make, would be to replace Ryan. The goalkeeping fiasco was only one mistake he made. He also did a poor job of using his substitutes and his disdain for playing possession soccer is idiotic. I don't know much about what good coaches are out there (what's Lauren Gregg up to these days? I heard a lot about her before Heinrichs got the job).

Secondly, I would have a team-building session with Solo and the rest of the team. The team needs Solo; I respect Bri- but Hope is the future. And just as much as the team needs Solo, she needs the team- playing pro in Sweden isn't the same a playing in the Olympics. I suspect she will be back as soon as Ryan is gone (or even if he isn't)

Third, the team needs to do a better job possessing the ball in the midfield. All this defense to forwards passing isn't working.

Siva said...

A mix of facts and opinions:

-- Greg Ryan made USWNT unwatchably boring with the long balls and Wambach-centric play.

-- Solo didn't do any worse than Scurry who made the following comment in 2004:

``I put myself into that entire game,'' she said. ``And I've always felt -- and I still feel -- that if I were playing, we would have won.''


-- Lilly and Foudy made themselves look more immature than Solo, some ten years their junior, by torching Solo for her spontaneous and heat-of-the-moment comments. (Note to "gostlouis" -- "Coach Foudy" and "Coach Lilly" have shown severe lack of true leadership with their comments.)

-- Shame on the entire USWNT contingent for making a family member feel like an outcast halfway across the world when she made a hasty remark under severe duress. ("Distraction", "20 members who stuck together", not letting her play the 3rd place game, leaving it unclear if she will even be on the same plane with them to get back home...)

-- as for candidates, there's Jerry Smith of Santa Clara Univ (and husband of Brandi Chastain), who was once considered a possible replacement for Heinrichs.

Eric said...

Andea-

Brilliant analysis in that ESPN piece. Thanks for the great column.

Tara C. said...

Andrea, what do you make of this? This was posted at another forum. I thought it'd be interesting to have your take.
http://womenssoccerusa.blogspot.com/2007/09/ryan-lilly-and-wambach.html#links
Have you heard anything regarding this rumor/information? It's not clear whether this refers to the initial benching of Solo for the Brazil match or if this refers to the benching after "The Interview".

As disappointed as I am with the handling of the Solo situation, I have to say I'll be even more so disappointed if it's true that Lilly and Wambach encouraged the benching and/or banishment.

jason said...

I think all sides need to given a mulligan. Ryan and Solo were both wrong but this doesn't mean they must be replaced.

The Olympics are in only one year and a new manager would spend too much time readjusting.

Solo's presence was a distraction. Not because everyone is mad at her but because the media focus is rivalling that of Tonya Harding.

That's the question I have: Why is this story so big? Angry athlete isn't enough? Solo's name? Her telegenicity?

zhatso said...

l.b....
you are scaring me....i have that sinking feeling that Gulati will want the unpleasantness at the world cup to die a quite death...and replacing Ryan would mean an extended period of uncertainty.

I hope they don't think, "oh he is an idiot, but he's our idiot and he worked so hard"

too painful to consider....

diane said...

New press officer. Whatever I think of who did and said what, there was no need for any player other than the captain to have to face a microphone so soon after losing the most important trophy in their sport. Not criticizing the reporter, fair enough to ask the hard question if the player is made available.

As a.c. and l.b. and anyone else who has spent time in locker rooms know, they're happy after a win and unhappy after a defeat. The bigger the stakes the more extreme that gets on both ends. These were big stakes and emotions can't but have run high.

Who knows what the postmortem would be without this incident. Hopefully the same opinions re personnel would apply, based on performance and longer term team dynamics than whatever transpired moments after that loss.

JT (Chicago) said...

First things first.

US Soccer has to come up with a way to have meaningful matches for upwards of 90 "elite" players. Organize their own league, play a ten match, 10 week season (or more). Open the doors and charge $5, or keep them closed. Just give players something in addition to the residency program and USWNT schedule of friendlies. They need to compete, develop, and learn; the residency program is good in theory but doesn't allow for full competition. Until a full professional league is in place, USSF needs to fill that void.

Next bring in a new coach. Ryan has created an atmosphere which may produce results but has not made the best use of players talent. And don't hire any more Route One coaches, ever again.

Jerry Smith (SCU) would be the best choice in my mind to take over the program.

De-emphasize the Olympics. Use the Olympics as the U23 (U21?) training ground, not a place for the full squad. Also, I'm tired of reading and hearing ESPN say that the USWNT won the bronze medal. Truth is, nobody remembers the 3rd place match in the World Cup. Don't make it a badge of victory by equating it with an Olympic medal.

Anonymous said...

Yes I've seen a few games. :o)

I will tell you this - I was at the very first FIFA women's world championship in China in '91 and have attended six other FIFA world championships through the years. I'll just leave it at that.

I don't think Solo is very good because of what I've observed during games. As I mentioned, she was shaky in quite a few situations in early games and was personally responsible for taking two points away from the USA in the opener with her sloppy play.

A goalkeeper's clean sheet is not always about the goalkeeper. In fact, most of the time, it's not in my experience. Goalkeepers are only as good as the defenders in front of them, and many times defenders can mask the weaknesses of keepers. But as a soccer expert, I'm sure you know this.

The team owes no apology for "selling out" Solo. She's the one who did the selling out. Ryan, whose decision to play Scurry DID NOT affect the outcome of the game (because the U.S. was horrible all over the field) will keep his job IMO.

All this bantering about the GK position is a side issue. The team was not good enough to win, nor was it good enough in 2003. They need to get better. There are 10 other positions on the field where the team can improve the next four years.

Try to remember that the USA's "record" in friendlies outside of major international tournaments is misleading. The men's team does the same thing by trumpeting its win-loss record in friendlies. It means nothing going into an international event. We see this once again in this tournament, as we have in previous men's world cups.

Anonymous said...

ryan has to go plain and simple. his mistakes started long before solo spoke out. his style and tactics are of recreation league level. i would like an explaination as to what marcie miller jobson is doing on this team besides keeping the bench warm? doesn't she have a team at niu she should be coaching. she was rewarded with the spot for sucking up to ryan as a college player. this patronage at its best. ditto for brett hall. i'm also upset with how the senior players also threw hope under the bus. they also must go. sorry kristine but for all you have done for the game it's time for you to go also. and take abby with you. you both should have stuck up for the younger player. i would also like to see a poll of who else agreed to dump solo. my guess is the other younger players felt threatened with their playing time. i will no longer support us soccer while ryan and his group are involved. i won't hold my breath that changes are forth coming.

Kev said...

Agree with some of the other posters--Ryan and all the senior team members should go. Their play has been ineffective, and the benefit of their experience is minimal if the young players are kept on the bench as they were through the tournament.

(Call it unfair, but I can't get out of my mind how quickly Tarpley made a goal happen just seconds after she came off the bench against Norway. No veteran displayed half that playmaking ability, Wambach included.)

I say clear the decks of those connected to previous national/Cup teams and start fresh with the youth (including Solo). There might be a couple years of building, and there might not be a win at the Olympics, but then again there might be--and the long term will be much better.

More of my opinions on this.

Anonymous said...

For all of you who have been making excuses for Hope Solo in this space, read this quote from today's AP story from St. Louis yesterday, in which Solo issued an apology to Ryan, her teammates and the U.S. Soccer Federation:

She said: "There is no excuse for insulting a coach or a teammate," Solo said. "My focus now is solely on reconciliation with the team."