U.S. undecided on goalkeeper for third-place game
SHANGHAI, China -- U.S. coach Greg Ryan is mum on who will start in goal against Norway in Sunday's third-place game at the Women's World Cup.
One thing in sure: Whatever the pick, it will generate heat.
Ryan's decision to bench Hope Solo in favor of 36-year-old Briana Scurry in Thursday's semifinal against Brazil backfired, causing one of the few simmering disputes in an otherwise placid tournament.
Brazil, fast and tricky, outclassed the No. 1-ranked Americans in every phase of the game, winning 4-0 in Hangzhou and sending the U.S. to its worst loss in World Cup history. After the game, an angry Solo called her benching the "wrong decision."
At a news conference Friday, Ryan said he hadn't decided on a starter for Sunday. In the title game Sunday, Germany faces Brazil.
His move will probably indicate Solo's future, which he suggested might hinge on the outspoken 'keeper making an apology.
The 5-foot-10 Solo is the logical choice to face Norway. Scurry was used against Brazil for her quick reflexes, but Norway is a tall, physical team that plays the ball in the air. The 25-year-old goalie also has a better kicking game than Scurry. The third 'keeper, Nicole Barnhart, has not played in the World Cup.
Ryan suggested there could be more goalkeeping changes down the road.
"There's other ones coming up that are great goalkeepers," he said. "This team has no shortage of talent in the goalkeeper ranks. Saying that, Hope is a very, very good goalkeeper. And hopefully we can get this situation sorted out and move on."
Solo has given up only two goals in four World Cup games and has not allowed a goal in almost 300 minutes. She had never faced Brazil. Scurry had defeated Brazil in its last two matches with the United States. Thursday's game was her 164th and she was in goal in 1999 to stop a deciding penalty kick against China to give the Americans their last World Cup.
"Obviously there's always opportunities for reconciliation," Ryan said. "This has only just happened. We'll work to try to get past this hurdle."
Midfielder Lori Chalupny, who played in the loss, heard Solo's comments and attributed them to frustration. She said the strong remarks had not split the team.
"That stuff in the media, I don't think it really filters into the team," Chalupny said. "We've known Hope for years and years and I just think she got caught up in the heat of the moment. It's nothing that impacts our team. She's a competitive person and wants to play."
The loss ended a 51-game undefeated streak for the U.S. with all but one of those matches under Ryan. His move caught many by surprise and was viewed as a possible distraction and threat to team unity.
Ryan said Friday he could live with his move, but suggested Solo had broken an unwritten team code by speaking out. Moments before Solo spoke with reporters, she was told not to do so by a U.S. Soccer Federation official. She ignored the caution.
"It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that," Solo said after the game. "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."
Ryan said players "have the right to say whatever they want," and declined to say if she would be disciplined.
"These codes aren't in writing -- it's not a legal code," Ryan said. "It's a personal code; it's a code of a community of players who care about each other and work for each other. You can't do anything about a person saying what they want to say."
Ryan stood by the goalkeeper switch but was still reflecting on it.
"As a coach you've always got to be willing to learn," he said.
"I know I put myself on the line a little bit, or maybe a whole lot," Ryan added. "But I always put myself on the line to help this team move on in the championship and at the time believed Bri was the right choice. In hindsight you could say maybe it's an easier decision to do it the other way."
A former defender in the defunct North American Soccer League, Ryan said he wasn't worried about losing his job.
"I've never spent five minutes trying to keep my job, but I've spent every waking minute trying to do my job," he said. "There are always plenty of critics who say it could be done better, and maybe there's somebody out there who will do it better."