Sports Panel: Do you think U.S. women’s soccer coach Greg Ryan should have started GK Briana Scurry in place of Hope Solo in the World Cup semis vs. Brazil? |

Sports Panel: Do you think U.S. women’s soccer coach Greg Ryan should have started GK Briana Scurry in place of Hope Solo in the World Cup semis vs. Brazil?

Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

I think most people would agree that when a team is working together and playing great, why change things up? If Greg planned on switching goalies he should have given the team more than 24 hours to digest the situation. It was a last-minute thought, and it definitely disrupted the team. Who knows?? We may have lost if Hope was playing, but it is kind of like taking Brett Favre out of the game when he has had great numbers and a four-game winning streak. Does that make any sense?? If she is playing well, let her play!

I’ve always felt athletes deserve to be rewarded for their performances, so my first reaction was that Hope Solo should have started against Brazil. However, her outburst against coach Greg Ryan was uncalled for and lacked “maturity,” a trait absolutely required in the realm of team sports. So, we’ll never know whether she would have “made those saves” as she declared in her tirade. We do know that USA played well enough against Norway to place third – not bad after being ranked 18th at the get-go.I stand by Ryan’s decision to start Briana Scurry just like I stand by Mike Shanahan’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-5 at the Broncos’ 5-yard line.Great coaches have the confidence (or guts) to make critical decisions subject to scrutiny; second guessers and Monday morning quarterbacks are a dime a dozen.

Hind sight is always 20/20, but, with that in mind, I probably would not have. If I had a goalkeeper who was playing exceptionally, I would have stuck with that hand.In pure speculation, I was wondering if the coach was thinking like a baseball manager and working the percentages. For example, you will see when a manager changes pitchers, and sends in a left-hander, the opposing manager might bring up a pinch-hitter that is right-handed, who will see the pitch better and has a better chance of getting a hit. It’s the chance you take, and you live or die with the consequences.

Greg Ryan switching goalies during the World Cup is one of the biggest blunders since Gerald Ford’s Whip Inflation Now program. H. Solo gave the team speed with the Millennium Falcon. Solo also brought power in the form of Chewbacca to the squad. Finally, H. Solo was the glue that kept the team together. He was a crafty veteran who found ways to win. Without him, the group was destined for mediocrity like the Star Wars prequel movies. Oh, it wasn’t Han Solo who was benched, but Hope Solo … oops. Well, benching any player during a hot streak at critical point is always a poor choice. Most sports fans know momentum in the playoffs is vital and sitting a player who’s hot is unheard of, well at least until now. The only logical explanation is maybe Greg Ryan is a secret agent for the Brazilians. No coach in their right mind would ever do something like that.

We’ll settle for bronze, I guess …Last week, the U.S. women’s soccer team was ranked high and ready for gold. Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the U.S., was going strong on a three-game shutout streak and was ready for Brazil. Then, a few nights before, coach Greg Ryan decided to change goalkeepers and put in Briana Scurry. The week’s question is, “Was the change a good idea?”No, it wasn’t a good idea then and still isn’t. Solo didn’t show any reason to be taken out. Scurry is a good goalie and had beaten Brazil before, but if the idea was to win gold and be the top-ranked team in the world, then you have to keep your best players at that time in the game. Brazil would win and U.S. would have to settle for bronze, but many still wonder if gold was only a goalkeeper away.

Seems to me you “dance with the girl that brung ya.” And that would be Hope Solo. The team was undefeated, Solo had been the starting goalie, so why change, if only to keep the psychological momentum going and avoid intersquad friction?That said … Brianna Scurry isn’t exactly an invalid (arguments have been made that Scurry was a better choice, and I can’t refute them), and Solo’s verbal takedown of Scurry was not only classless, but bad for her career. “It doesn’t matter what you did in an Olympic gold medal game three years ago … ” she says about Scurry. *Really*? Scurry is the most successful women’s goalie in U.S. soccer history, and has thrived in pressure games her entire career. That kinda *does* matter.And to say “*I* would have made those saves” … well, you know what, Hope? There goes your margin of error, for the rest of your career. Next time you *don’t* make a save that someone else considers makeable, be ready with that retraction.

Given that most American sports fans don’t pay much attention to international events until the finals, the only noteworthy item in all this is Solo’s reaction – ripping into the coach with her “It’s not 2004 anymore … It doesn’t matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold-medal game in the Olympics three years ago” remarks. Personally, I would have gone with Chewbacca – an 8-foot wookie would fill up the goal pretty well, I’d think.

Coach Ryan probably made a mistake in this instance. Solo’s performance in the World Cup has been excellent, and I believe she deserved to continue starting because she had done nothing to deserve being benched.That said, I also believe that coaches sometimes have gut feelings to make changes that may not always make sense to everyone else. Sometimes those feelings turn out successfully and sometimes they don’t. If this was Ryan’s gut feeling, it obviously didn’t turn out so well in hindsight.

That was a horrible decision. Hope Solo got them to the semifinals, hadn’t allowed a goal in the last 300 minutes, and Greg Ryan benched her because Briana Scurry has a better record versus Brazil even though she hadn’t started a game in three months. That was stupid. This isn’t baseball where you compare records. It’s soccer. You use who’s hot, who’s winning. Ryan over-thought it – and I am not sure if the U.S. could have beaten Brazil anyway – but he didn’t even give them a chance.Solo probably shouldn’t have spoken out against the decision so much while the tournament was still going, but I don’t think Ryan should have kicked her off the team. She has every right to be upset.

Though it’s on the record that I hate soccer, I was more than slightly perturbed by Ryan’s move. You don’t turn a blind eye to a hot hand in favor of previous statistics. Just a terrible decision. That’s all I got.

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