By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 30, 2007
SHANGHAI, Sept. 29 -- Goalkeeper Hope Solo, who criticized Coach Greg Ryan's decision to bench her in the U.S. soccer team's loss to Brazil in the Women's World Cup, was not allowed to practice with the squad Saturday and will not be in uniform for the third-place match against Norway on Sunday.
Ryan announced the move after a meeting in which Solo apologized to her teammates. He said he weighed input from his veteran players, some of whom said they believe Solo's comments reflected negatively on goalie Briana Scurry, who replaced Solo and gave up four goals in the worst loss in the U.S. program's history.
"We do what is best for the team, and what is best for the team is the 20 of us right now," team captain Kristine Lilly said. "With the circumstances that happened and her going public has affected the whole group, and having her with us is still a distraction."
Through a team spokesman, Solo said she did not want to be interviewed. However, in an entry on her MySpace page, which U.S. Soccer Federation officials said was authentic, Solo wrote that she did not intend to insult Scurry:
"I am not proud or happy the way things have come out. Although I stand strong in everything I said, the true disheartening moment for me was realizing it could look as though I was taking a direct shot at my own teammate. I would never throw such a low blow. Never. Many of this goes way beyond anyone's understanding, and is simply hard to justify. In my eyes there is no justification to put down a teammate. That is not what I was doing."
Ryan was roundly criticized for benching Solo, who had not allowed a goal in almost 300 minutes of the previous U.S. games. The criticism intensified after the United States lost 4-0 to Brazil. Scurry, who had not played in the tournament, was caught out of position and was only able to deflect Brazil's second goal, and was shaky at other moments.
U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said Saturday the governing body will do "a pretty quick analysis of what has happened" before deciding whether to retain Ryan for next year's Olympics. Ryan's contract, which pays him an estimated $175,000, expires Dec. 31.
Ryan cited tactical reasons for the decision to replace Solo. After the game, Solo said it was the wrong decision and that she would have prevented the first two goals. She also said that Ryan chose to look in the past instead of the future when making the decision.
"Obviously, this has been a distraction to the team," Ryan said. "We have moved forward with 20 players who have stood by each other. . . . The decision is completely based on helping the team just focus on being on a team and going out and playing great against Norway."
Ryan said Saturday that Solo has "lost this team."
"Hope is a young person, she's made a mistake and she knows that," Ryan said. "You just want to see her grow from this."
Scurry, 36, will start against Norway and be backed up by Nicole Barnhart, Ryan said. Team officials said Solo will not be at the stadium.
"It just goes to show you have to be professional all the time and you have to watch what you say," forward Abby Wambach said. "We, as a team, want to look as quickly as possible forward to Norway because this tournament isn't over. That's the most unfortunate part about it. . . . I am so very proud of the way how we've handled this because [it was] not easy. This is uncharted territory for us."