My WNT article about their upcoming tour is up. As I was writing the article, though, I couldn't help but muse on the what-if scenarios.
What if Greg Ryan hadn't made the goalkeeper switch? What if the USWNT had only lost to Brazil by a goal, and without the team issues that followed Ryan and other team leaders deciding to ostracize Hope Solo? Would Ryan still be coaching the team?
In hindsight, is the ultimately team better off after all the crap they went through?
Now they have an internationally experienced coach who has instilled a more versatile, flowing offensive style. Pia Sundhage really understands the pressures of the women's game and the psychology needed to confront an opponent from the inside out (from the start of the announcement by Ryan to switch goalkeepers, my concern was for the lack of confidence this displayed in his players and how the change would affect the defense - voila, own goal by Osborne). More importantly, the team also has a coach who is professional enough to look at emotionally charged situations objectively and make the best decision for the team as a whole. Pia didn't pick sides. She just came in and asked everyone to work together as a team and leave the past in the past.
Aside from Pia, I think the players have, or should have, a better understanding of team unity. It's not everyone doing everything the same way and thinking as one and saying the same thing. It's working together in spite of differences.
Moral of the story is - was it worth it? Would you trade a third place finish in the World Cup for a new coach and a gold medal? Or if Ryan had gotten the team to the final of the World Cup before losing, would you have kept him around for "more of the same"? Would you insist upon change instead?
It's possible that Greg Ryan did the team a favor with his odd call to trade out goalkeepers. It set the ball rolling for a host of changes. While some were painful ones with continuing repercussions, there's a clear argument to be made that things have improved a lot. More attractive soccer looks especially good with a glint of gold.