Ryan, team leaders decide Solo should miss game

September 29, 2007
By Associated Press

SHANGHAI, China -- Outspoken U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo will not be with the team for Sunday's third-place game against Norway in the Women's World Cup.

Coach Greg Ryan announced the decision 24 hours before the game and just two days after Solo went public and criticized him for benching her for the semifinal with Brazil. Ryan went with 36-year-old veteran Briana Scurry, but it didn't matter. Brazil overwhelmed the top-ranked Americans 4-0, superior in every phase of the game.

Ryan said Solo would not play against Norway, and would not attend the game. Team officials said Saturday she remained in China making it likely she will return with the team.

Scurry will now start against Norway.

"We have moved forward with 20 players who have stood by each other, who have battled for each other," Ryan said on Saturday. "And when the hard times came -- and the Brazil game was a hard time -- they stood strong. Now it's the 20 who have stuck together who will be ready to go out and compete against Norway."

Defending champion Germany will face Brazil in Sunday's championship game. The Brazil loss marked the second straight time the United States has fallen in the semifinals of a Women's World Cup, failing to repeat titles of 1991 and '99.

Solo, 25, in a widely seen interview, said Ryan had made the "wrong decision" by benching her. She also said she would have made the saves, an open criticism of Scurry who led the United States to the '99 title and gold in the 2004 Olympics.

Captain Kristine Lilly and star striker Abby Wambach said Solo apologized at a team meeting. And on her myspace page, Solo said she did not mean to criticize Scurry. However, she maintained Ryan's decision was wrong.

Ryan said he made the decision to leave Solo off the team after meeting with "team leaders."

"The circumstance that happened and her going public has affected the whole group," said Lilly, the 36-year-old striker who is playing in a record fifth World Cup. "And having her with us would still be a distraction."

Wambach, who has four goals in the World Cup, called the controversy "uncharted territory" for the U.S. women, who were unbeaten in their first four games: a tie with North Korea, and wins over Sweden, Nigeria and England.

"It just goes to show you have to be professional all the time and you have to watch what you say," Wambach said.

The goalkeeping flap has turned an otherwise placid World Cup into one spiced with controversy, boosting its visibility in the United States.

The third-place game also takes on more significance.

"This is our chance to get back on the field and show our country and our fans how we can play soccer," Lilly said. "That's really what's important for this group right now."

Ryan and Wambach said Solo may still have a future with the U.S. team, but Ryan has suggested the position is deep with young players coming up.

"Everybody has a potential to have a future with this team," Ryan said. "I think what's got to occur is reconciliation and that is a very slow process."

"She's made a mistake and she knows that," Ryan added. "Believe me, I've made a tons of mistakes in my life -- bigger than Hope's."

In her interview after Thursday's loss, 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."

Ryan's future is also up in the air.

The United States was unbeaten in 51 straight games before the Brazil loss, but the lopsided defeat and Ryan's decision to switch keepers -- Solo had not allowed a goal in almost 300 minutes -- makes it unclear if he will be retained.

Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States Soccer Federation, said Saturday that Ryan's contract was up at the end of the year. He did not say if Ryan would coach the team in next year's Beijing Olympics.

"In all events like this ... we do a pretty quick analysis of what's happened; what's gone well, what's not gone well," Gulati said.

"That will happen even more quickly in this case," he added. "We'll analyze this situation after tomorrow [Sunday]. We've already starting analyzing it."