Friday, September 28, 2007

Again, Ryan Must Go

Dear Aaron,

Don't mean to pile on, or kick a guy when he's down. But U.S. coaches certainly should understand the dangers of yapping away in the media.

This adds to the disasterous performance of our National Team coach.

When I think of more, I'll write.
You know who

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Obviously, Ryan Must Go

Dear Tony,

I have never done this before. I didn't do it when Bora refused to work on youth development or coaching education. I didn't do it when Sampson fell in love with his own importance and devised the silly 3-6-1 formation then embarrassed us in France. I didn't do it when April had a meltdown in Australia and her team continuously under-performed. I didn't do it when you didn't produce in Sweden in '95.

But I'll do it now. Greg Ryan needs to go. If we can pull it off before the third-place game, that would be nice. But I understand we may need to wait until he gets back from China.

He's a nice guy, but he has ruined the U.S. women's national team -- their confidence, their reputation, and their popularity. Our place atop the world is gone. Of course, everyone knew it was coming some day. Brazil, Germany, Norway ... they were all right there. And we knew as early as 1998 that if Brazil got more of their population involved in women's soccer, it would be very bad news for us. The fact is that our place was gone about a year ago. It just hadn't been proven yet.

I've seen it before. The pressure of playing in a World Cup or an Olympics gets to coaches. They over-react to it and do something that can't be fixed. Replacing Solo was an over-reaction if you look at it in the rear-view mirror or through a clear windshield. It told the players he was desperate to change the team in order to play another team. This came from a guy who had little or no confidence in the roster he selected, rarely using his bench through the first four matches. Then all of a sudden, he goes to his bench for a new goalkeeper? By the way, he embarrassed Bri, a player who has done as much as anyone for women's soccer in this country. He put her in a situation she was not prepared for, and set her up to fail.

His management of the Brazil match was, as Foudy said, "mind-boggling." Using two subs on defenders when you are down three goals with 10 players? That's hard to justify. What that told me is that he needed more people to thump long balls to Abby, which is the style of play that got him in this mess to begin with.

The style is what bugs me most. That set us back as a country 10 years. Is that how our youth and college teams are supposed to play? If our national team is a model for the rest of our system, then, yes, that is what we are supposed to be doing. Won't catch me playing that way, though.

All of that tells me two things. First, he wasn't prepared to coach at the World Cup. Second, he didn't do a good job picking his staff. Was there no one sitting near him to suggest that he was killing the team by replacing Solo? Did no one suggest that he might need to put an attacking player in the game when he was down by three? Or did he refuse to listen?

So, who do we get to replace him? I have one choice.

Brandi Chastain. Not only does Brandi have a solid background in the women's game, but she is also a student of soccer with a very high-level understanding of tactics. She is well-respected, says and does the right things (later in her life, not necessarily earlier in her career), and she would help mend the team’s image which took a horrible hit this month.

I'm sure you remember. After you won in 1999, you went to the Federation AGM and got grilled and ridiculed for the way you won. China was better, they said. We didn't have enough combination play, they whined. Well, if the Fed wasn't satisfied then, what will they say now? I don't have a very good track record trying to understand the moves the USSF leadership makes, so here's my prediction. A new four-year contract for Greg Ryan.

When I think of more, I'll write.
You know who

Monday, September 24, 2007

Heart, Effort, Quality and High Standards

Dear Roger,

Last week I wrote that my U13s got stomped in a lackluster performance and then came back the next day (after a couple long "chats" with me) and put in the performance of the season.

I ended that post saying how was able to start talking to them about maintaining high standards. Well, we played a game this past Saturday and now I have to adjust my coaching a little bit.

We played a team with which we have a long history of close, hard-fought games. Four seasons of matches, I'm told, have all ended in loses or draws. Not this time. It wasn't even close. It was nowhere near the performance I was expecting from this bunch. In fact, it was very hard for me to believe.

Just six minutes in, it was 1-0. By halftime, it was 3-0. The second half was much of the same dominance, but no more goals.

We were just unbelievably good. I challenged them to get a goal in five minutes. It took six. I told them to shut down service out of the back, they did. I told them to play to feet and keep possession, they did. I told them to stay organized in the back to handle the other team's fast and strong striker. She was never a threat.

Now, I have to step back a bit. I told them at halftime that they just set a new standard and it was pretty high. The job now, I said, is to see if we can raise that standard higher. The standard didn't drop in the second half, but I'm not sure it was raised. I could really care less. Now, it's about consistency of effort and quality.

Let me tell you, this is downright fun.

When I think of more, I'll write
You know who