Chuck Noll once famously said, “When you finally get invited to the ball ya’ dance with who brung ya.”
It has also been said that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Both are famous words that all championship-caliber coaches live by. Greg Ryan did not.
Ryan made the colossal misstep of benching his first-choice goalkeeper, Hope Solo, who had three consecutive clean-sheets. Goalkeepers over time develop a rapport with their defensive backline in front of them, and it was obvious that Solo and the USA backline were in harmonious sync, especially when you consider that with Solo in goal Team USA had never lost (no this is not a typo). Not taking anything away from Briana Scurry, arguably the greatest female goalkeeper ever, but not having played all tournament long with this backline and at age 36 obviously past her prime, Ryan’s decision upset the delicate chemistry that the backline had with the goalkeeper they were obviously on the same sheet with.
It’s hard to argue that this was to blame for the unexpected loss to Brazil given the 4-0 scoreline; on the day Brazil was just the better team. But it certainly didn’t help; with a couple of well-placed and well-timed saves we don’t know what the result would have been or how the team would have responded. That Solo handled it badly afterwards is not really the point.
Ryan chose the absolute worst time to make a bad decision not even a novice soccer mom would make. And to make matters worse, he now has two players in conflict with each other and a locker room in turmoil to deal with. Way to go, Ryan. Thanks for giving us the positive proof we needed you are not a championship coach.
Since Solo is white and Scurry is black, now I’m just waiting for the predictable scream of surface racism that always accompanies this kind of conflict when a black and a white are involved. Thank you so much, Ryan, for adding this to the larger discussion of race.