Sept. 29, 2007
By Michael Lewis
Gulati will decide Ryan's fate soon
Shanghai, China -- The future of U.S. women's national coach Greg Ryan will be determined soon after the Women's World Cup, according to U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati.
That's because Ryan's contract is up at the end of this year and that another major soccer competition -- at the Beijing Olympics -- starts in less than a year, Gulati said Saturday.
Ryan is under fire for switching goalkeepers prior to the team's biggest game of the competition -- the semifinals with Brazil. He switched Briana Scurry for Hope Solo, who hadn't given up a goal in 300 minutes. The U.S. snapped a 51-game unbeaten streak going back to November, 2003.
"In all of these sorts of major events . . . we do a pretty quick analysis of what happened, what's going well, what's not going well," Gulati said, responding to a question about Ryan's job being in jeopardy. "That's on the technical side, administration side, coaching side, playing side."
Gulati and U.S. Soccer CEO and secretary general Dan Flynn met with several members of the American media over breakfast Saturday morning.
"That will happen more quickly in this case because there is a competition in a year," Gulati said. "I don't know no if anyone has come up with the right answer for this sort of question because when I ever hear I someone say, 'We're 100 percent completely behind the coach forever.' People write that and say that's proverbial support. And when said anything but that, they say you're not giving the coach support. So, I don't know how to give the coach support.
"We'll analyze the situation after tomorrow. We've already started to analyze it. It would look silly to say we haven't thought about what's happened in the last few days. And I won't do that. But I certainly am not going to discuss it. Right now, all eyes are focused on tomorrow at five o'clock."
Gulati was referring to Sunday's third-place match between the U.S. and China (ESPN2, 4:30 a.m.).
Ryan earns an annual salary in the neighborhood of $175,000 as one of the top five paid employees of U.S. Soccer with performance bonuses (for winning the WWC, finishing second and third).
Asked how much returning to China weighs in on his decision, Gulati replied: "We'll make the absolute best decision for the results we want for the program in terms of wins and loses and in terms of development. Yes, the Olympics are right around the corner. The administration and organization of the Olympics are very different than what we are able to do here. Our coaches, players and staff have been to China a lot over the last 15 years. We come here almost every year to play in a tournament. I don't think the coach would refrain from bringing new players that haven't been to China before."
Gulati also broached several other subjects:
* On whether the U.S. would field its starting : "A bronze medal on line. The first question that Dan and I asked Greg after the game the other night was what was the attitude and what was the strategy about this game. And there's not a player in that group that wants to do anything -- they want to see some of their teammates get a chance to play because they are a very tight (group) -- they want to win this game. While some third-place games are used to get some players in games, the team's going to win that game tomorrow. That's the goal."
On the semifinal loss: "We lost to a great team, we lost to a great team in an important tournament at a critical stage, so that's very, very disappointing. Going into the tournament, I would have said there were three favorites: Germany, the U.S. and Brazil. That's disappointing, but we are not going to win every game we play. The magnitude of the loss, once you lose, it some sense, it doesn't matter what the score is. I think the game's result got skewed a little bit by things that happened early in the game."
* On the U.S. Women's National Team's progress: "We have not gotten complacent. We did not get complacent when we won in 1999, when we won the gold medal in '96. In that sense, we have doubled down, because we have known very clearly people are investing in the sport. And if we invest the same dollars, effort, resources, time, commitment as other countries do, the gap will narrow because they have started at a lower base. That has clearly happened, and when a country with the soccer tradition of Brazil and the population size of Brazil gets serious about it, and they are in the World Cup final, over the last couple of years, it would have been hard to say they were serious about it. That's a scary thought."
* On Brazil's performance Thursday night: "Brazil looked technically so gifted is pause for concern. That magnitude wasn't there in the summer of 2004. They have some extraordinary gifted players. Having said that, the best technical team doesn't win every game. Otherwise, Brazil would never lose on the men's side and on the women's side, based on what we saw two nights ago, they'd never lose. On Thursday night, they were better, no question about. I am not going to say they were a lot better because of the strange things that happened early. There are going to be days when we beat that team. And it wouldn't be because we were technically more gifted. We're not going to produce the same technical players as some other countries in the same ways, we're not going to replicate. We're not going to replicate the beaches of Copacabana and street soccer except by creating it, and by creating it it's not the same. . . . I'm not going to say its beyond belief. It's magical."