The U.S. Women's soccer team has been virtually unbeatable in international play for several years. Heading in to Thursday's World Cup semi-final against Brazil, the U.S. team was undefeated in 51 straight international matches.
Brazil is a powerhouse this year, arguably fielding it's best team ever. The U.S. team didn't look it's strongest en route to the semi's, but could hardly be thought of as underdogs against the Brazilians.
This is where it gets strange. U.S. Coach, Greg Ryan, decided to swap his 25 year-old, stellar goalkeeper, Hope Solo- who hadn't allowed a goal in the tournament since the first game (she shut out the next three teams she played)- with 36 year-old, past her prime, Briana Scurry the day before the Brazil game. The U.S. team lost 4-0, a thumping of sorts in soccer.
There's no doubt in my coaching mind- Ryan made a huge mistake. I am not sure if the U.S. would have won with Solo in net, but two of the four goals were weak. A lack of confidence in your keeper compounds mistakes which leads to more goals against. The game would have been tighter with Solo in net. Ryan messed up big time.
So, why am I proud of the U.S. women's team?
After the game, Solo did something she should have never done- she publicly criticized the coach for the decision to yank her in favor of Scurry- but worse yet- she criticized Briana Scurry (a two-time World Cup champion goalie and consummate team player) in the process. In a television interview, Solo said- "It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that,,,There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. ... You have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past." The last statment is a reference to Scurry and her past World Cup performances. Hope Solo dissed her teammate in public. Teammates don't do that.
Despite losing the semi-final game, there are two more consolation matches to be played. The U.S. team collectively agreed that Solo could not remain part of the team for these two games and thus she will be sent home early. I'm proud of this decision, it's the right one.
U.S. team captain (and one of the all time greats in women's soccer) Kristine Lilly spoke on behalf of the team who voted to send Hope Solo home. Their decision to have Solo removed from the team for the rest of the tournament was based on Solo's decision to attack her teammate in public. Most people agree that Ryan made a huge coaching blunder. I suspect he'll lose his job over it. Still, Solo should never have criticized her teammate's abilities in public like she did. A team is like a family, all grievances should be handled person to person, "in house", not aired in public for everyone to see (kind of "Matthew 18 style").
I'm proud of how the U.S. Women's team handled this trial. I was able to teach my sons a lesson about being a teammate because of this action.