We heard from Hope Solo on Thursday. We got Greg Ryan's feedback Friday. Today was Sunil Gulati's turn. No, he did not fire Ryan. He did, however, address a wide-variety of issues during a 75-minute roundtable with a dozen reporters -- from the uproar of Solo's comments, to the USA's humbling defeat to Brazil, to future development of the sport, to the proposed women's league.
On the semifinal loss...
"We lost to a great team, we lost to a great team in an important tournament at a critical stage, so that's very, very disappointing. Going into the tournament, I would have said there were three favorites: Germany, the U.S. and Brazil. That's disappointing, but we are not going to win every game we play. The magnitude of the loss, once you lose, it some sense, it doesn't matter what the score is. I think the game's result got skewed a little bit by things that happened early in the game. Not the own goal and not the second goal, but once you have a player sent off and you are down 2-0, you are going to try to go forward and get a result, then you open yourself up and obviously we did that. Brazil is not a team that wanted to sit back; they wanted to, for whatever reasons, put on a show and they did. The third issue the fact that Brazil looked technically so gifted -- and they are technically gifted - is pause for concern, pause for thought. That magnitude was not there in the summer of 2004. Technically they were better on that day and frankly only the extraordinary will of the group of players and maybe some destiny gave us that result. But they have got some extraordinarily gifted players, the sort of players and technical ability you expect to see from the men's team in Brazil. Having said that, that doesn't mean the best technical team wins every game. Otherwise, Brazil would never lose on the men's side and on the women's side, based on what we saw two nights ago, they'd never lose. On Thursday night, they were better, no question about it. I am not going to say they were a lot better because of the strange things that happened early. There are going to be days when we beat that team. And it wouldn't be because we were technically more gifted. We're not going to produce the same technical players as some other countries in the same ways. We're not going to replicate the beaches of Copacabana and street soccer except by creating it, and by creating it it's not the same. The instinctive ability of a player like Marta is, I am not going to say it is beyond belief, but it is magical."
On making progress as a program...
"We have not gotten complacent. We did not get complacent when we won in 1999, when we won the gold medal in 96. In that sense, we have doubled down, because we have known very clearly people are investing in the sport and if we invest the same dollars, effort, resources, time, commitment as other countries do, the gap will narrow because they have started at a lower base. That has clearly happened, and when a country with the soccer tradition of Brazil and the population size of Brazil gets serious about it, and they are in the World Cup final, over the last couple of years, it would have been hard to say they were serious about it. That's a scary thought."
Is Greg Ryan's job in trouble?
"In all events like this, we do a pretty quick analysis of what has happened, what has gone well, what has not gone well -- that's on the technical side, administration side, coaching side, playing side - that will happen even more quickly in this case because there is a competition in a year. We will analyze the situation after tomorrow. We have already started analyzing it. It would look silly to say we haven't thought about what's happened the last few days, and I won't do that. Right now all eyes and efforts are focused on tomorrow at 5 o'clock."
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On the publicity and controversy generated by Solo's comments...
"It's a sign of maturity of the sport, so I think it is a good thing. Do I wish that some of the things that happened over the last few days aren't what generated the controversy? Sure. ... The fact that people care about this, that people care that we didn't play all that well against North Korea and we were supposed to, why is this happening, why keep Abby off the field for 10 minutes [when she was hurt vs. Korea], fantastic. That's all great. That people cared about the decision on goalkeepers? That we got drubbed in one game after a lot of resources, a lot of effort, with a great group of players? That people care? That people are writing to me, saying, 'Aren't you going to do something about the issue?' That's all good. That's all absolutely positive. If you ask me, can we keep that going for another month? I'd like to do that. Not with the same sort of controversy. That's the hard part. What is it in sports that we want to get people to do? Is care. It's a good thing."
On the lack of a woman on the senior coaching staff...
"That's an important issue for us. In the end, it doesn't become the only issue, but I think you will see more women involved on the sidelines in our teams in various capacities on the women's teams - and in some cases, on some men's teams - and I think you will see greater minority representation on our men's teams and our women's teams."
On the prospects of the proposed U.S. women's league...
"I think there will be greater cost controls at management, more managed expectations, in some cases smaller stadiums, the group of investors seem very committed. They understand - which is a critical component - this is a long-term plan. They understand that the color of ink on the bottom line is likely to be something different than they usually see in their businesses, but they are committed to that. And that's important. ... I think they have learned some lessons [from WUSA]. Given the model, I don't know if they will be able to go out and get Marta to play. I'm not sure. Some things have changed around the world, she has become more expensive. To make the league viable, initially they may not be able to go get all of the top players worldwide. I think they will get a bunch of them, for sure."
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