Hope Solo's post-match reaction to being benched in favor of Brianna Scurry
It's not too often that I get a chance to weigh in on an issue about which I actually know something (I coached women's soccer for a decade), so I have to say something about what just happened at the Women's World Cup. Here's what happened and my take on all of it:
- US Coach Greg Ryan chooses to replace goalkeeper Hope Solo with Brianna Scurry for the semi-final match against Brazil. His rationale is that Scurry has a good record against Brazil- Solo had never faced Brazil.
- Problem 1: You don't replace a "hot" goalkeeper. Solo hadn't lost match in the last fifty or so she played. It was unlikely she would suddenly not play well against Brazil were slim.
- Problem 2: Brianna Scurry had not played a meaningful (World Cup, Olympic, etc.) match in three years, and is now 36 years old. To borrow a boxing term, "ring rust" was likely to be an issue for Scurry.
- Problem 3: Greg Ryan's rationale makes no sense- every US keeper ever has a great record against every opponent- the team is 275-50-39 since it's founding and had not lost under Ryan until the loss to Brazil!
- Hope Solo publicly states that Ryan made the wrong decision and that she would have stopped the shots that Scurry let pass.
- Problem 1: Even if you're right, you don't say it in the press. No matter how moronic the decision was, the issue needs to stay within the team.
- Problem 2: When criticized for the first mistake, trying to "recontextualize" your comments about your teammate and coach makes you look like an idiot.
- The claiming she would be a distraction, the US team votes to have Solo leave the team for the rest of the World Cup.
- Problem 1: The rationale here is ridiculous. Solo would be a distraction for the one remaining match?! The 3rd place/consolation match? Very, very weak.
- Problem 2: As a coach, you cannot- as I read the situation- use your players to cover your mistake. Even if the players came to him to request a vote on the issue, he has to refuse it. He made the mistake, the blame is solely his- having her leave the team only exacerbates the problem by airing team business in public, again
- Coach Ryan forgets how to coach, over an above his match day decision.
- Problem 1: Hope Solo is a world class athlete, a necessarily competitive person, and beyond that, a soccer goalkeeper- she should be expected to have an ego! Without it, she probably wouldn't be as good as she is- Ryan should know this. While he probably couldn't have predicted her going public with her feelings, did he expect her not to have them? Would he have wanted her not to have them?!
- Problem 2: He suggests that there is, and I'm paraphrasing, "Plenty of talent out there..." and that, and this is a direct quote, "what's got to occur is reconciliation and that is a very slow process." Coach, you can't try to turn Solo into the only person who made a mistake. And coach, FYI, she's got a brighter future with the team than you do.