Monday, October 1, 2007

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of Circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of Chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The poem Invictus (means "unconquered" in Latin) was written by William Earnest Henley, supposedly from his hospital bed after his leg was amputated below the knee due to a tuberculosis infection.

I don't know if she still wears it now, but when I interviewed Hope Solo last year, she had a little medallion around her neck that had those last two lines of the poem inscribed on it.

It seems eerily appropriate now.

Reaction to the goalkeeping situation on the U.S. team has been all over the map. Many have taken Solo to task. Many have defended her. I mentioned to someone in U.S. Soccer, "Hey, at least they're talking about the team now."

The response wasn't enthusiastic, something along the lines that all the opinions were so extreme -Fire Ryan, or Hope is terrible. I had to agree the issue was polarizing. The whole event, this person told me, would likely put a big cloud over the team working toward the Olympics.

So as not to take up too much room on the front page, I'm sharing some recent emails in the comments of this post. Check it out if you're still up for reading about the controversy. Some interesting points were made.

15 comments:

A.C. said...

AC Mailbag

--Greg Ryan does not look so good and absent Hope's public comments after the Brazil loss HE is the one who would and should have been on the hot seat for an abrupt change that undoubtedly affected team chemistry and attitude.
Left in the decision dustbin is another factor that should have gotten someone's attention and some press coverage - HE apparently made Hope's attendance/absence at the Norway game a matter of team participation (decision making ??) including at least Lilly and Wambach in the decision process??? How to divide, split and fracture team unity.


--Solo's choice of words was poor, but nowhere near as poor as Ryan's
decision to bench her and then ultimately banish her from the team. The banishment kept the spotlight on Solo which is what Ryan wanted. Solo had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the extrmelely poor offensive showing of the US in China.

--the coach makes a stupid move, perhaps in scurry had played since june or played in the tourney, there might have been some grounds to do so...
but the petty blackballing of solo is a BAD example for the rest of the girls in this country who play the game...
to accept a coach and a team who banishes a player as being proper, this cannot be accepted...
ussf and ryan need to be pursued and questioned about this matter....
will ryan ban slol from the olympic team???
if he feels so strongly about scurry, then he better make her the keeper next year....
ussf had a long search for a coach and settled on ryan....
they couldn't even find a decent womens coach who wanted the job....
the old line unc mafia who runs the female game in this country needs to be ousted...
get the usa playing a SKILLED game, not the run and chase the current coach uses...
he probably couldn't teach a skilled approach....he dosn't know how, and he doesn't now how to treat an adult like an adult...
he treated solo like a little kid....

--I believe that Ryan must face a higher level of scrutiny based on his inability to make decisions in a high-pressure environment, such as the world cup. His success at the Algarve Cup, etc, brought none of the inherent pressure he faced on a world stage -- a pressure which ultimately caused him to fail.
In my opinion, Ryan's time at the helm of the US Women's ship must come to an end.

--I am really taken aback by the reaction of the team. Whatever logic Coach Ryan might have applied, and whatever words he might have used to explain playing Scurry, there really can only be one intrepretation; He benched Solo because he didn't feel she could do the job. That this would totally mess with her head is the only logical outcome.
She reacted in the only way as a competitor that she could to combat
that incredible vote of no confidence. You can of course argue whether she handled her opportunity with the media as well as she could, but that is beside the point.
That her "teammates" would side with the coach, to me at least, points to the fact that this team is living in the past. The "kumbaya" generation that this team was built is not the model of the future. When we were clearly advanted due to depth and breadth of our college programs, the team could afford the luxury of having a happy family along with the sucess. The world has caught up, and we now need the best competitors on the field.
Coach Ryan should be fired quickly and without remorse.

A.C. said...

More AC Mailbag

--Normally I think you have a pretty good perspective on things and write good articles. But I think you missed the boat on the Hope Solo article.

Was Greg Ryan wrong in playing Scurry? Possibly. But Hope, despite what she claims, did personally attack Scurry and was way off the mark with her comments that she would have made those saves. It was a ludicrous implication.

And while she's bad mouthing her teammates and coach think about
this? Did anyone throw her under the bus when she let in a soft goal
against North Korea? Did Scurry come out to say, "I would have made
that save and I should be starting? Did Greg Ryan not give her his
full confidence? Didn't the team rally around her when her father
passed away, wearing black armbands during the game against China in
Cleveland and essentially dedicating that and the Brazil game at Giants Stadium to her and her father?

The main thing most of the media missed is that it probably wouldn't
have mattered who played in goal - Brazil was clearly the better team
that night.

--I feel awful that Solo is being vilified when I believe her reaction was justified given the position Greg Ryan put her in. Why hasn’t the media picked up on the fact that switching keepers mid-tournament is unprecedented? Why is no one talking about Greg Ryan’s two defensive substitutions and then his comment after the game that you can’t sit back and defend when you are down two goals? Why is no one talking about how flat the US midfield looked and how they gave Brazil loads of space while they were closed down immediately? What about the technical quality of the teams? Brazil’s first touches and passing were much crisper than the US’s.
After watching the final yesterday I feel that the US deserved to be in the third place game. They were clearly beaten by the better team in the semi-final and no one wants to admit it. The US needs to be introspective and do a post-mortem on what happened in China. Hopefully they will be able to do so honestly and not blame Hope Solo’s post-match comments for their short comings. Thank you for trying to bring to light some of the real issues instead of feeding the soap opera monster that has been created. Part of growing soccer in America involves educating the fans about intricacies of the game so that they can begin to see the beauty of the game instead of 22 people chasing a ball with very few goals.

--Too bad Hope could not have waited a few days to tell all of us how let down she was not to start in the semi-final of a World Cup. Too bad, as the attention was then directed away from Greg Ryan and the team’s incredibly poor performance against Brazil . Forget that no keeper at any level would have stopped two of the four goals….look at the lack of physicality, slow pace of play, terrible service (when there was service at all), and the inability to hold and win second balls. It is clear that both Brazil and Germany have passed up the Americans; Hope venting her emotion only took away the reality that our WNT has tough test in front of them next year in Beijing.

--In my opinion Ryan should be fired as soon as he touches US soil….I sat through the entire WC saying how can we keep winning playing this type of soccer….no possession and the players would just boot it up long ball style and would hope that Abby would do some great feat which she did almost single handedly….if we have all this talent and this is what he does with the best young players then US Soccer needs to reconsider if they do want to be the best in the world because we looked pretty mediocre against the rest of the worlds best.
No else has commented on Ryan's substitutions as they didn't make since or were non existent. You can't complain that your players are tired (and they looked dead against Brazil) when you never take them off the pitch….the games when they were comfortably ahead or ones when they needed defense he didn't even use the three available subs throughout the entire tournament..or even different lineups to rest the players especially in the first round…..so if you brought all these players along and you don't trust putting them into the spot light now then when?...and then against Brazil they are down 2-0 and he puts in more defense….even that didn't help win a do or die game, its damage control….it just doesn't add up.
I think Solo's comments if spun right could have been a blow to Scurry but it still wasn't a direct slam…definitely a media hyped exaggeration of the entire mess…Ryan should have dealt with this problem internally…called Hope in one on one, eye to eye and said look I know your upset but the decision has been made and you will be relegated to the bench, deal with it…be accountable for and take responsibility for your actions….At least she would have still been on the team…instead it looked like he wasn't brave enough to own up to his decision, called in Lilly and said how do you want to handle it and then he used the captains view as the reason she is kicked off the team…what a coward! He actually acted arrogant about his GK decision before the game and said he could take the heat if it didn't work. Well it blew up in his face and instead of saying it was a bad decision lets kick off the only player outspoken about it. Its too bad Hopes teammates didn't stick up for her before the game when Ryan did make the decision to change…where were the captains then?....sounds like a lot of bickering and finger pointing…..very childish and unfortunate but the guy who created this was Ryan. If the idea to play Scurry against Brazil was in the works for 4-5 months then why not be open and honest about it and get her some games by rotating GKs so each knew their time was not locked in….then everyone knew the game plan would be if the US ever had to face Brazil….also an action that would be taken by a head coach.

Unbelievable…..my blood pressure is still high after this whole mess. I hate seeing US teams have the talent and then implode due to poor direction (i.e. see April H and S Sampson)… I guess it is similar to how other countries population feels when their talented players bomb out of a WC and underachieved due to bad leadership.

--Hope Solo's reaction after the semi-final loss was inappropriate but that's not issue. Greg Ryan's huge tactical error (I can't think of a larger one in any sport) proves his inability to lead this team. He should stop listening to his pompous sound bytes and understand what a foolish move he made.
Go back to Europe, Hope! Maybe you can come back when the U.S. hires a real coach!

--Many folks want to see it as the cranky player vs the poor coach keeping discipline, rather than the dumb moves made by Ryan, and the 1970s style of play he prefers, which set the whole soap opera in motion.
Finally, yeah it didn't matter as they knocked out Norway, but the goal that got in over Brianna's head you know Hope would have saved. But of course impolitic for anyone to say that out loud, after the victory and Brianna's years of service.
So let her ride into the sunset with her head held high, and Greg ride off too.

A.C. said...

Even more AC Mailbag

--I think it's time for the US
team to have a Woman coach and I think the mind set of the women
soccer players being treated as second class citizens goes all the way to the top in the soccer organization.

--After that performance last week Greg Ryan should be removed far, far away from anything more to do with the team.

Three other comments:
1) I thought that Kristine Lilly giving the captain's armband to Scurry when Lilly got subbed late in the Norway game was another slap to Hope S. It makes me wonder how much real unity there was on the team after that happened.
2) If anyone reads anything great into the 3rd place game, they're crazy. Norway didn't care and were I think played out after giving it all they had vs Germany in the semis.
3) This comment of yours--Or perhaps the leadership of the U.S. women's team led the players astray by no longer emphasizing technical play and precision passing. --
is an observation that should be hammered at at every level in the game. When will this country figure out that "boom-ball" is junk??

--He should be dismissed. He should have already been. If this was the Men's team...he would have been gone the next morning!

--Some people will blast Hope as
petulant and undisciplined, and it's unfortunate that she decided to throw that bit about the saves she believes she would've made into her commentary, but the rest of her remarks were pretty much spot on. If there's any justice, Ryan will get the boot when the team gets back and Hope will regain her spot under a new coach who actually understands how to make rational decisions in teh clutch.
Your comments about developing players spoke volumes
as well, not just for the U.S. women but the men as
well. Our guys battled bravely against Brazil at Soldier Field recently (a match I was fortunate enough to attend), but the gap in technical skill was as wide as the Royal Gorge and it ultimately showed on the
scoreboard. At some point, we have to start emphasizing the technical side and encouraging young players to take the kinds of risks on the ball that create the Ronaldinhos and Kakas of the world. Being disciplined, fit, physical and fast is all good and well, but without that "je ne sais quoi" of technical brilliance, it doesn't result in world championships in the modern game; witness Germany and England!

--Actually she did disparage Brianny Scurry. She said 'I would have made those saves.' That is disparaging. She is implying that she is a better keeper than Scurry.

--I think she was unfairly treated by her coach and her teammates. She deserved better.

--What about the position that Wambach and Lilly took in criticising Hope's "outburst" as it was easy for them to do. Why?? Well - nobody pulled them out of the most important game of this World Cup as is what happened to Hope!! I wonder if they would have reacted as Hope did had they too been pulled. Let's face it - Hope was performing. Our ball control and possession was not and we almost lost to Nigeria!! Did the coach NOT see that game?? Yet he stayed with Lilly and Wambach and pulls the goalie!?!?!? You have to wonder if Lilly and Wambach would have stuck by the coach if he chose to pull them for the Brazil game. Additionally, would Greg Ryan have quietly accepted a "demotion" had his boss chose to demote him in favor of Tony Decico (spelling??) right before the Brazil game!?!?!?! Such a move MAY have helped improve the American ball possession and control and thus would have been justified?? I doubt however that Mr. Ryan would have kept his mouth shut!!! Hope Solo said what was needed and I hope she kicks butt in the future - even if its for a European team!! Don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes - and neuither Wambach nor Lilly were pulled for a "lesser" player (and I like and was rooting for Bri - I just feel that now - Hope is the far better goalie).

A.C. said...

AC's never ending Mailbag

--I am a 35 year old soccer player although I don't play competitively anymore I still have much passion and love for the game. This young talent is sacrificed by her coach since he knows he made a cruical mistake deciding to play Scurry in a semi-final World Cup match.
American media is so good at reflecting these events in an unfair way to an audience which the majoirty of them don't even follow this sport. It was perfect especially since Scurry was an African-American athlete which I
think made Solo look even worse. Solo to this day didn't say anything wrong in my opinion. I think any decent goalkeeper could and should have saved the 2nd and 4th goals against when US played Brazil. Brazil only looked
great against the US because US simply did not bring their full potential and obviously were distracted. With the type of teamwork and discipline like
Germany's US easily could beat Brazil.

--I'm with Hope. She got screwed twice by her weaselly coach. First by being unnecessarily replaced before the big game. Scurry was rusty. Everybody, even the commentators, saw this when shen muffed the first ball that came her way.
The second turn of Mr Ryan's knife in Hope's back was his reaction to her criticism. What I saw reeked with paternalistic hypocrisy. "The poor girl has had personal problems".
Coach Ryan was the distraction. He should be a man and accept responsibility for our flop against Brazil and he should resign.
I like your comparison with the young German goalkeeper. The German coach stuck with her and she was magnificent in the final.

--Ryan must have been ecstatic when he heard of Hope Solo's comments. He subsequently construed these comments to be disruptive to the team and unfair to Scurry only because his giant ego could not bare the truth of his own blunder. This manipulative attempt to belittle an athlete who did so much for her team makes him unqualified to continue as coach of the team. His choice of Scurry, a wonderful athlete of past teams, was poor and cannot be defended. She was a back-up goalie for obvious reasons and her best play was at least years ago. By choosing her as the starting goalie against Brazil Ryan implied a lack of confidence in Solo to do a job equally well. I only wonder what Ryan was smoking when he conjured up his rationale.

Solo's teammates who voted her off the team should also be held accountable for their actions. If they feel that Solo let down a teammate by making a public statement of criticism against her (which was not the case), then they in turn also let down a teammate. They should have asked Scurry if she had truly played the best game she is capable of playing. Undoubtably Scurry would have admitted she played poorly thereby validating Solo's criticism of Ryan choice of goalie and supporting Solo's contention that she would have been able to handle some poorly played balls. However, the team turned a blind eye to the truth and supported a self-serving coach and a popular teammate long past her prime. This is what I call real Christian charity. Whatever happened to "let him (her) who is without sin cast the first stone"?

--I hope there is at least one or two members of that team that, now that the event is done, will come out and stand up for Solo and what was done to her. I hope that she will name names and feed the organization that horribly wronged both her and the cause of
women's soccer in America to the dogs, as they deserve. Really,
nothing she can say now can hurt her any worse than what they've already done to her, completely ruining the her reputation in the public eye, if not in the eyes of her present and potential future US Nationals teammates.
She should return the favor. No doubt many will just call it sour
grapes, even without the media orchestration that is sure to follow and continue, but some of us know better. I'm sure that she'll have a bright future as a professional player somewhere in Europe.

--His decision to replace Hope with Brianna was appalling. He upset the team chemistry and unsettled the defense at such a crucial time that if he does manage to keep his job it would be an injustice to the women's program. In our house he is referred to as the "tinkerman" for messing with a fine unit. His decision caused this uproar, Hope merely reacted emotionally and unfortunately into a microphone. Interesting that Brianna Scurry made very similar comments about Siri Mullinix in the past and yet Hope is being crucified.

--Ryan may not know how to prepare a team for Brasil, but he surely knows how to deflect criticism. No matter how many more attacks he launches on Solo, three moves remained unexplained.
1. Removing starting goalie after two shut outs.
2. Lack of preparation and attack throughout tournament.
3. Defensive substitutions when down 3-0.
I believe Ryan wanted some of the spotlight on him, so he made a 'daring move' replace goalie. When it failed he along with some team leaders beat up on Solo Disgraceful.

--I'm not a fan of Ryan's. He is plastic propaganda--Scurry did not have a great game, as he now claims, against Brazil. Don't know if he says that because it covers himself, or Scurry. The former is most likely. I don't appreciate the repressive policy he has regarding players talking to the media. America is based on honesty, after all. His false positive BS is transparent. He screwed up, Scurry is not what she was--which WAS GREAT. He should admit the mistake. Yet, he pretends Scurry was great (while adding defenders in the second half to keep the goals down instead of trying to score goals) when we all know her day has passed. This is not the USSR where the big lie can be easily sold. Nor do we Americans want cozy, cuddly BS--we want truth.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be this popular notion that Solo was kicked off the US team, but I have not read that anywhere. Looking at the annoucement by Ryan it said (taken from US Soccer.com):

""We did not have Hope attend practice today," said Ryan to a press gathering in the team hotel. "She will not be attending the game tomorrow (Sunday). We have moved forward with 20 players who have stood by each other, who have battled for each other, and when the hard times came – and the Brazil game was a hard time – they stood strong. Now it is the 20 that have stuck together that will be ready to go out and compete against Norway. That’s our whole focus, and that’s what we’re going to do."

Nowhere does it say that she has been kicked off the team. She even stayed in China and flew back with the team. I know many people assume this to mean that she has been kicked off the team, but what this ammounts to is a one game suspension by the team. Granted, it's the teams final game and that's unfortunate, but all this talk about her team turing it's back on her is rediculous. If that's the case, why was she not sent home early?

Player in all sports are suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team". It happends all the time. This doesn't mean that the team turned it's back on them. It means that the player broke team rules.

The best thing to do is to just move on. Ryan should lose his job and the team needs to find a new coach. I hope everyone decides to put the situation behind them and not make anymore comments about it, because you know how the media is. I'm sure players and coaches, espicially Hope, are getting tons of request to do interviews "to get the real story". The best course of action would be to let the story die.

Boltgirl said...

Anonymous, it was far more than a one-game suspension. Solo was barred not only from the bench for that game, but from the stadium. And from training. And from the medal ceremony. And from team meals. It's girl-clique shunning at its worst; regardless of how many supported she may have among the younger players, the team as a whole did indeed turn its collective back on her.

Der FuƟballhund said...

Can you believe this article?
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3298669

A.C. said...

Even the facts are wrong - the writer calling Solo a whiner says her comments came before the Brazil match. That's simply not so. Hope was upset and said she didn't understand the decision, but the open criticism came after the big loss.

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought. Everyone is quick to claim that the team abandoned Hope, but how do you know that Hope didn't agree that staying away from the team for the 3rd place game would be best for the team during it's preparation.

Look how the media has been all over the story. It seemed that every other t.v shot from the world feed during the Brazil game was of Hope, and that was before her comments.

Imagine the team trying to prepare for the 3rd place game with Hope there. Media would be swarming the practice, trying to get reaction and comments from every player and coach. How could that not be a distraction.

If she were on the bench against Norway, again the t.v. cameras would show her more often than necessary. I will concede that it would have been nice if US Soccer would have allowed her to go to the stadium and watch the game somewhere where the t.v. cameras could not find her so that she may join the team once the game was over for the medal ceremony because she was a big part of the team getting a far as they did.

Tara C. said...

Anonymous,

If Hope indeed agreed to lay low, then why wouldn't the team have had her give a statement, saying something to the effect of, "I believe that the best thing for the team is for me to maintain a lower profile. We would all like to get back to concentrating on winning the next game. If that means that I need to not be at the game, I will do what's best for the team."

The WNT is always talking about "family" and "team". I'm sure if Hope was in agreement, they would have loved to have bolstered the image that they so love to hype by having Hope give a public statement about sacrificing her presence for the sake of team unity. Notice that when Ryan, Lilly, and Wambach spoke about the decision to banish Hope from the game, they did not say, "The team, along with Hope decided..." They said (paraphrasing), "The team decided that Hope should not be there." There is no indication of the decision having been a mutual agreement between the team and Hope.

diane said...

:( Can't believe they banned any player that had participated in the tournament from the medal ceremony! That's incredible.

Anonymous said...

"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."

-Eric Cantona

Anonymous said...

Tara C.,

Just because the statement was addressed as "The team decided" versus "The Team and Hope decided" doesen't make a difference. Is Hope not part of the Team? If it was a team decision, then there is no need to single any player out.

I'm sure that there were players who didn't agree with the decision, but apparently enough people thought it to be the best thing for the team.

If the team voted and the majority, even if only by one vote, voted that Hope not be there for the 3rd place game, it will still be announced as the team decision. Not so-and-so voted to keep her, but so-and-so decided for her to be suspended.

Fact is, none of us were there and until someone decided to spill the beans on what happened, which may or may not happen (I personally hope not, because it has greatly overshadowed the fact that Ryan should be fired), it's all just speculation and opinion that just fires up the blogs and message boards.

A.C. said...

Sorry, the distraction excuse doesn't wash as a reason for excluding her from the medal ceremony, after the game was over, or from team meals, where no cameras are allowed.

And from the quotes by Kristine Lilly, Abby Wambach and Greg Ryan, it certainly doesn't sound like Hope had any option to agree with the ban. It was a sentence, not an suggestion.

Pat said...

What blows my mind about all this is the way passive-aggressive way that Ryan dealt with it.

Solo had a moment of unprofessionalism. 30 seconds of it. For a 26 year-old who recently lost her father, her best professional opportunity to date, and was being borderline mocked by the team PR person (http://www.cbc.ca/sports/fifawomens/blog-paul/2007/09/ryans_goalkeeper_switch_backfi.html), I can't say I'm surprised.

I mean, do we want a goalie who doesn't think she could make those saves?

But instead of immediately bringing in both players involved for a hard chat and moving on - like a professional would - Ryan declares that it is going to take months to "go through a process of reconciliation". He then talks about how deep the pool is a goalkeeper, minimizing Hope's contribution to the team.

In short, her case of unprofessionalism lasted 30 seconds. His has lasted days. The PR guy said this would "cast a cloud over the team". It's not because of her words. It's because of Ryan's inability to deal with them.