Sept. 28, 2007
By Michael Lewis
Ryan: Things can be patched up with Solo
Shanghai, China -- Can things be patched up between U.S. women's national coach Greg Ryan and Hope Solo? Ryan certainly hopes so.
|U.S. women's coach Greg Ryan: "There are always opportunities for reconciliation. This has only just happened and we will work to try and get past this hurdle."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
In his first extensive interview with the American media since the 4-0 defeat to Brazil in the Women's World Cup semifinals Thursday night, Ryan Friday expressed optimism that he can reconcile with his goalkeeper.
Ryan benched Solo in favor of veteran Briana Scurry, even though the former hadn't allowed a goal in 300 minutes and only two in four previous WWC matches. Scurry had played in three WWCs, backstopping the 1999 championship team.
"There are always opportunities for reconciliation," Ryan said during a 16-minute press conference at the team hotel, The Westin. "This has only just happened and we will work to try and get past this hurdle."
After watching the U.S. loss to Brazil for only the second time in 23 encounters, Solo sounded off in the mixed zone to ESPN after the match. It was believed to be the strongest comments made by a player about an American coach after a WWC spanning back to 1991.
“It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that,” she was quoted by ESPN. “There’s no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is it’s not 2004 anymore. . . . It’s 2007, and I think you have to live in the present.
"And you can’t live by big names. You can’t live in the past. It doesn’t matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold-medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters, and that’s what I think.”
Ryan indicated he was surprised that Solo said those things because there is an unwritten code among players to keep dirty laundry within the team and not to air them out with the media or outside influences.
"We live in a free country and players have the right to say whatever what they want to say," he said. "We can never silence our players. However saying that, the one common thing, probably more than playing style or number of championships, the one common code has always been the players supported one another. That strong bond between the players to support each other no matter what -- whether they agree with me or not with me, playing style, performance decisions - always, always backed one another.”
When asked whether there he would discipline Solo, Ryan did not exactly answer the question.
"These codes aren't in writing; it's not a legal code, it's a personal code," he said. "It's a code of a community of players who care about each other and work for one another. You can't do anything about a person saying what they want to say. What you can do is hope that in the future your players will truly support one another. You know you have your battles in the locker room, you have your words, you have your difficult moments, coach's meetings with players that are difficult, and we all know you want to go out in front of everybody and stand together."
Asked how the players reacted to the comments, Ryan replied, "I do know that the players are concerned, but I don't want to comment on their reaction."
Ryan said he didn't know whether Solo or Scurry would start against Norway in Sunday's third-place match (ESPN, 4:55 a.m.).
"I haven't made any decisions yet on the starting lineup," he said.
Solo's outburst could very well factor in Ryan's decision.
"Whenever you make a decision, you always weigh all factors," Ryan said. "This is something very important to this team and is maybe an insight into this team: These players want to play for each other. They love each other. . . . Of course, that will factor into that decision."
But he didn’t think this controversy would affect the team’s focus for Sunday. "This team will come together,” he said. “Sometimes opposition or frustration from different sources can help this team be even stronger. They are focused."
Ryan held steadfast that he did not make a mistake to change keepers.
"Bri gave us a great effort and it could've been worse," he said. "On that night, the own goal to start the game, the red card on a challenge that was actually a challenge from behind on (Shannon) Boxx, when those things are falling against you, I don't think it matters.
"I was thinking Oliver Kahn might have struggled to keep that game level. Of course, as a coach, you will always say, 'Maybe I should've chose differently,' but at the time I look at experience against Brazil, and Bri has that. Reaction saves, Bri has that. I know I am putting myself on the line a little bit, or maybe a whole lot, but I always put myself on the line to help this team move on. At the time, I thought Bri was the right choice."
Ryan has taken a beating in the media and on the blogs, which are overwhelming in favor of having him removed as coach. A poll of more than 45,000 people on America Online gave overwhelming support to Solo and called for Ryan to be replaced.
Ryan however, said he wasn't concerned about his job security.
"I made a commitment when I took this job that I was completely focused on doing everything I could to improve this team, to help this team do as well as they could," he said. "I've never spent five minutes trying to keep my job, but I've spent every waking minute trying to do my job. There will always be critics that say you could have done it better, and maybe there is somebody who will do it better, but I will never worry about that."
Ryan admitted he did not know how he will be judged.
"You just go out there and do your best," he said. " That's how you get great results. That's what this team has done for 51 straight games, but unfortunately our 51st while I was coaching went against us in some strange ways. And I have to also look at my decisions and say, 'Did I make the right ones?' For me, I made the right ones at the time, but as a coach you always have to be willing to learn too."