Greg Ryan Speaks
Following the U.S. team's 4-0 semifinal debacle against Brazil on Thursday and the fallout from goalkeeper Hope Solo's comments, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced that neither Coach Greg Ryan nor any of his players would be available to the media Friday. But with fan and media criticism mounting against Ryan and the way he handled the goalie situation, the USSF reversed course on short notice and scheduled a news conference with the coach.
Here are some excerpts from the 16-minute Q&A session this afternoon in Shanghai:
What was your reaction to Solo's comments?
"We live in a free country and players have the right to say whatever what they want to say. We can never silence our players. However saying that, the one common thing, probably more than playing style or number of championships, the one common code has always been the players supported one another. That strong bond between the players to support each other no matter what -- whether they agree with me or not with me, playing style, performance decisions - always, always backed one another. I am very proud of that legacy and I would love to see that legacy continue."
Will there be disciplinary action against Hope?
"These codes aren't in writing; it's not a legal code, it's a personal code. It's a code of a community of players who care about each other and work for one another. You can't do anything about a person saying what they want to say. What you can do is hope that in the future your players will truly support one another. You know you have your battles in the locker room, you have your words, you have your difficult moments, coach's meetings with players that are difficult, and we all know you want to go out in front of everybody and stand together."
Did the players react to Hope's comments?
"I do know that the players are concerned, but I don't want to comment on their reaction."
Will Hope start Sunday?
"I haven't made any decisions yet on the starting lineup."
Will this situation affect your decision?
"Whenever you make a decision, you always weigh all factors. This is something very important to this team and is maybe an insight into this team: These players want to play for each other. They love each other. ... Of course, that will factor into that decision."
How do you co-exist with Hope in the future?
"You just co-exist. We've all been in relationships. I continue to do my job, she continues to do her job. We go about our business."
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A strained relationship between a coach and a keeper probably would not be workable. What needs to be done to get past this? "Obviously, there are always opportunities for reconciliation. This has only just happened and we will work to try and get past this hurdle. One of the great strengths of American teams, both men and women, is the talent pool of our goalkeepers. It's exceptionally deep. ... I have always looked at [Scurry] as a starting level keeper, arguably the best keeper that's ever played the game. Nicole Barnhart is a great goalkeeper. There are other ones who are great goalkeepers. This team has no shortage of talent in the goalkeeper ranks, and saying that, Hope is a very, very good goalkeeper and hopefully get this situation sorted out and move on."
Was it a mistake to change goalies?
"Bri gave us a great effort and it could've been worse. On that night, the own goal to start the game, the red card on a challenge that was actually a challenge from behind on Boxx, when those things are falling against you, I don't think it matters. I was thinking Oliver Kahn might have struggled to keep that game level. Of course, as a coach, you will always say, 'Maybe I should've chose differently,' but at the time I look at experience against Brazil, and Bri has that. Reaction saves, Bri has that. I know I am putting myself on the line a little bit, or maybe a whole lot, but I always put myself on the line to help this team move on. At the time, I thought Bri was the right choice."
Does Hope owe the team an apology?
"I think the main thing in reconciliation is that both parties are sincere, that both parties care about each other and want to reconcile. If that happens, I think there is a very good shot."
Despite your success, this was a big loss. Do you worry about your job security?
"I made a commitment when I took this job that I was completely focused on doing everything I could to improve this team, to help this team do as well as they could. I've never spent five minutes trying to keep my job, but I've spent every waking minute trying to do my job. There will always be critics that say you could have done it better, and maybe there is somebody who will do it better, but I will never worry about that."
How do you think you will be judged?
"I don't know. You just go out there and do your best; that's how you get great results. That's what this team has done for 51 straight games, but unfortunately our 51st while I was coaching went against us in some strange ways. And I have to also look at my decisions and say, 'Did I make the right ones?' For me, I made the right ones at the time, but as a coach you always have to be willing to learn too."
Does the U.S. team need to find faster players?
"That's one issue, but there are ways to solve that by playing collectively. ... Our approach was pretty good initially. Of course, you are going to get into some one-on-one matchups and you when do, you have to make sure you have cover. But the game is getting faster, it's requiring faster players, but you can't just get faster players; you've got to get faster soccer players. What made Brazil great was not their speed; it's the fact that they had speed combined with skill, combined with savvy, they played both directions and they did well with their set pieces. It's the whole package."
Are you worried about team chemistry going into the third-place game?
"This team will come together. Sometimes opposition or frustration from different sources can help this team be even stronger. They are focused."
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