Saturday, September 29, 2007

I'm Proud of the U.S. Women's Soccer Team

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.


GUNNY said...

Well, as I had noted, I was hoping for a Germany vs. US final, though Germany's been my team all along.

When I first heard of the decision to replace the goalie I thought it was tantamount to changing to the Cowboys benching a red-hot Tony Romo in the playoffs, after he played lights out, and putting in Brad Johnson for the NFC Championship game.

Sure, Scurry was good back in the day, but that was dumb. It was a HUGE distraction and a step back talent-wise.

But, as you noted, everybody knew that. Everybody in the soccer world knew that and WAS SAYING that.

My biblical advice to Solo would have been Proverbs 27:2
"Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips."

It's not like popular opinion wasn't in favor of Solo, so what did she have to gain by dissing her teammate AND her coach?

That's right ... nothing. She only had everything to lose. Well, since she wasn't going to play anyway in this upcoming game, it's somewhat of a moot point, but I appreciate the gesture nonetheless.

My question has to do with the long-term implications. Is Solo through for the US Women's team, or will we all be friends again when she's needed in tournament play?

Deutschland uber alles!

AJF said...

Good points and Good question about Solo's future. She is a phenomenal talent. She should have been the U.S. mainstay for years, now that is in question.

GUNNY said...

Sad, isn't it? Solo was great and it's a shame to see her miss out on the bronze medal and potentially playing for the US again.

But ... there's a sermon illustration in there somewhere.

Oh, how about the Frauleins?!

21-0 ... Not too shabby.

Frontier Forest said...

I too take my hat off to the leaders who took this tough stand. Some biblical advice for Miss prideful Solo: Paul rejoiced in all things, humbly dealt with issues of being ignored, mistreated, let alone being imprisoned for righteousness sake. “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself. Do not merely look out for you own personal interests but also the intersects of others. Have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:2-5

Buddy said...

I torn two ways about this situation...
I completely agree that it was the wrong coaching call - as proven by the fact that Ryan was replaced. I also agree that Solo was out of line in criticizing her teammate in public. That's not what being a team is about.
On the other hand, can't that also be said about how the team reacted? Completely ostracizing a teammate? Sending her on a different flight home? She was upset and said some things that she shouldn't have said, but then they turn around and put that problem out in public for the scrutiny of the masses.
Why not handle the issue quietly? Don't let her play the rest of the tournament, for sure.
Solo's actions weren't that of a good teammate, but if a team is a family, does a person get disowned for speaking out-of-line?

Hopefully, now that she is back on the team for this summer's olympics, the team can find a way to overcome the past and reform the team bond that will be necessary for a repeat gold medal.