Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Ryan benches Solo for Scurry in World Cup semifinal vs. crafty Brazil
HANGZHOU, China -- Greg Ryan will be seen as a savvy
strategist if it works.
If it fails, he'll be blamed for benching goalkeeper Hope Solo --
she hasn't yielded a goal in almost 300 minutes in the women's
World Cup -- and switching 24 hours before the match to veteran
Briana Scurry for Thursday's semifinal against Brazil.
The U.S. coach surprised almost everyone on Wednesday, going
with the 36-year-old Scurry because her quick reflexes could
frustrate the tricky, fast-paced Brazilians led by strikers Marta
Ryan shrugged off any criticism.
"That's not important to me at all," he said. "From Day 1
I've just tried to make decisions that will help us win the next
Unbeaten in 51 straight games, the No. 1-ranked United States is
seeking its third World Cup title, but Brazil figures to be its
toughest test. A victory puts the U.S. squad into Sunday's final
against defending champion Germany in Shanghai. Germany reached the
final on Wednesday in Tianjin, overwhelming Norway 3-0. Germany
defeated the Americans 3-0 in the World Cup semifinals four years
Solo, 25, has been excellent defending crosses and high balls,
but Ryan wants Scurry for her scrambling.
"The way the Brazilians play in terms of creating off the
dribble in the penalty box and making a goalkeeper make
reaction-type saves, I think Bri is the best goalkeeper in the
world in those situations," Ryan said.
The move split opinions.
Scurry is a longtime star. Her decisive penalty-kick save
against China in the '99 final in the Rose Bowl captivated the
nation. But this switch could be disruptive to a young, close-knit
group. The game is expected to be tight, although the United States
has lost only once to Brazil in 22 games.
Ryan broke the news to Solo on Tuesday, but she sensed what was
"The moment I got tapped on the shoulder saying I need to meet
with you, I had a pit in my stomach and I knew what it was," said
Solo, who's given up only two goals in four games -- both against
North Korea in a 2-2 opening draw.
"I was very taken back, but that's the nature of sports and it
happens," Solo said. "He has his reasons."
Ryan said he talked with Scurry several months ago about playing
in the World Cup if Brazil were the opponent.
"She (Solo) knew there were certain types of games that I felt
like Bri would be the keeper," Ryan said.
Asked if Solo would return in the final if the United States
defeats Brazil, Ryan replied: "I don't know."
Scurry acknowledged the move caught many off-guard.
"I think some people might find it to be unusual, but I'm
getting my opportunity now and I'm not really concerned about what
has happened in the past."
Scurry caught Ryan's eye in practice.
"I have been playing incredibly well," she said. "I kept
myself in shape, kept myself on my toes and sharp. So he just
decided it was going to be me."
Former U.S. captain Julie Foudy, a soccer analyst on ESPN, was
skeptical of the change after hearing Ryan explain it.
"I think Bri will be fine, and the move will be fine," Foudy
said. "But I just think it becomes a distraction when you're too
focused on that rather than the game. To me it's a sign of worrying
too much about the opponent."
She couldn't recall a similar move in a high-profile tournament
-- men or women.
"I just think sometimes you can overthink things," she said.
"Maybe that was the case, but if he pulls it off maybe it's hailed
as a great move.
"I think Bri is fine. But it's more the team chemistry issue
and how Hope rebounds if you want her, and the fact that Bri hasn't
been playing that much."
Ryan was asked if benching Solo, who has played 52 times
internationally for the United States, would hurt her long-term
"That's not our concern," Ryan said. "We came here trying to
win a world championship; put the players on the field that we
thought could win each game."
Scurry has played 163 times for the United State, but has been
the No. 2 recently, and she hasn't played a full game in three
She's been in goal in the last two games against Brazil: a 2-0
victory in June in New York, and the 2004 Olympic final, which the
Americans won 2-1 in extra time. It was Scurry's goalkeeping that
allowed the U.S. team, outplayed in the game, to take the gold.
"She'll be ready, wait and see," Ryan said.
In Germany's 3-0 victory, an own-goal by Trine Ronning just
before halftime set Germany on its way, and it dominated the second
half with goals from Kerstin Stegemann and Martina Mueller. Germamy
has not been scored on in 529 minutes, dating back to the 2003
tournament. That broke the record of 442 minutes in 1999 and 2003.