Women's Soccer USA

Coverage of women's soccer in the US. If it's not here...it's not important...

October 17, 2007

Who's sorry now?

Shortly before the U.S. women's national team played Mexico last weekend in St. Louis, U.S. Soccer distributed a four-paragraph news release to assembled media. It was a statement from goalkeeper Hope Solo.
“I would like to apologize to my teammates, coaches and everyone else adversely affected by my comments at the Women's World Cup,” it said. “This public apology comes later than it should have, but I hope that it does not diminish the fact that I am truly sorry.”
Which prompts the question: Why?

Why is Solo apologizing again? Why, indeed, is she apologizing at all?
And if we're truly operating in the spirit of reconciliation, why isn't U.S. coach Greg Ryan issuing a public apology for suddenly benching Solo before the World Cup semifinals and for all the other bone-headed decisions he made along the way to the team's worst performance in a major international tournament?

Why isn't the federation apologizing for hiring him in the first place when a half-dozen other candidates had far more impressive résumés?

Why isn't Kristine Lilly, soccer's all-time caps leader for men or women and the team's current captain, apologizing for disappearing for long stretches of World Cup matches?

Why isn't the rest of the team apologizing for its lackluster and unimaginative play throughout the entire event?

What we have here is an inexperienced, immature team and an equally ill-equipped coach trying to mask their embarrassment at being party to the worst loss in the 22-year history of the women's program – and heaping their frustrations on a 25-year-old goalkeeper who didn't play in it. If Solo did anything wrong when she stared into a TV camera and launched a 28-second tirade after the 4-0 loss to Brazil, it's that she tossed Ryan and his beleaguered team a lifeline.
In the military, they call it diversionary tactics. You blow up something somewhere else to divert attention from the primary focus of the mission.

Ryan quickly rounded up his team leaders, turned them against Solo and built a constituency to vote her off the island. They kicked her off the team bus, then threw her under it.
Solo was not allowed to eat meals with the team in China, not allowed to attend meetings with the team, not allowed to sit on the bench with the team for the third-place game, not allowed to collect her bronze medal with the team, not allowed to fly home with the team.

First she apologized in person to her replacement in the Brazil game, Briana Scurry, as well as other teammates. Then she posted a lengthy, heartfelt apology on her myspace.com site.

Apparently that wasn't good enough. Last week in St. Louis came the formal, public, written apology issued through the federation, which, those close to Solo have suggested, looked suspiciously like someone else authored it and demanded she endorse it.
Again, for what?

Solo's defense is that she spoke the truth while representing a nation that prides itself on its First Amendment. She said Ryan's decision to bench her for the semifinal after going 3-0-1 in the first four games and replace her with a goalkeeper who hadn't started in three months was “the wrong decision, and I think anybody who knows anything about the game knows that.” And indeed, anyone who knows anything about soccer has called it exactly that, both before and after the fact.
Solo also said, “There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves.”

Everyone keeps forgetting, but Scurry once said something eerily similar about Siri Mullinix, who started ahead of her in the 2000 Olympics. The Americans reached the final and lost 3-2 to Norway in overtime; two of the Norwegian goals were directly attributable to Mullinix gaffes.

After regaining the starting position, Scurry said she blamed herself for the Americans not winning the gold medal because she had let herself get out of shape in the glow of the 1999 World Cup victory – ultimately losing her spot to Mullinix.
“I honestly believe that in my heart, yes,” Scurry said in an interview before the 2003 World Cup. “I knew I could have made a difference in that match.”
Any way you spin it, she is ripping Mullinix, her teammate, and piercing that supposedly sacred veil of trust.
We're still waiting for her formal, public, written apology.

Scurry surely didn't intend to demean her teammate, just as Solo didn't intend to demean Scurry. The difference is that in 2003 Scurry played on a veteran team with veteran leadership. The 2007 team has Lilly, who was about No. 6 in the leadership pecking order a few years ago, and Abby Wambach, whose abrasive, in-your-face style often rubs players, several privately admit, the wrong way.

And you have Ryan, a man scrambling madly to keep his $175,000-a-year job.

Understand that Ryan did not include Solo on the roster for the post-World Cup exhibition tour out of some magnanimous gesture. He included her because he had to under terms of the contract between the federation and its national-team players. They are guaranteed $10,000 for the three-game series against Mexico, which continues tonight in Portland and concludes Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home