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Gulati's Turn

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.

The highlights:

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."

Keep reading below.....

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."

By Steve Goff  |  September 28, 2007; 11:53 PM ET
Categories:  Women  
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Next: USSF's Prospects to Host in 2018

Comments

I'm surprised there are no comments here. It is 4:45 in the morning. I'm going to keep this short and say those are interesting comments considering they are from Sunil Gulati. Fire Gulati, then fire Ryan.

Posted by: sitruc | September 29, 2007 4:46 AM | Report abuse

Fire Gulati & Ryan? Someone has been reading my journal! :p

I don't know why he has a defeatist attitude about signing Marta to the US league. It's closer to home for her and NO women's league pays well even in Europe. All of those are still semi-pro last time I heard.

Posted by: papa bear | September 29, 2007 5:18 AM | Report abuse

"Brazil is not a team that wanted to sit back; they wanted to, for whatever reasons, put on a show and they did."

For whatever reasons?

The ultimate goal in soccer, what you strive to do in your dreams, is to win and win beautifully. When you have the opportunity to beat a good opponent soundly and by playing attractive soccer, you should relish it. The fact that Gulati seems to not get that...maybe I should paraphrase: It gives me "pause for concern, pause for thought."

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | September 29, 2007 6:35 AM | Report abuse

It may turn out that the bungling by Ryan and the controversy arising from Hope's comments may as much to advance attention in the US on the state of women's soccer as winning the cup.

Controversy nets more ink and air time and lingers a lot longer than merely winning.

Posted by: seahawkdad | September 29, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Solo won't even be with the team against Norway. Some pretty strong words about her, too. This is isn't blowing over as fast as I'd hoped:

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=467839&cc=5901

Posted by: Andy | September 29, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

We have REGRESSED in soccer the last few years. Oooh, the men won the Gold Cup!! (ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ) We then proceeded to send a D-level team to get our butts kicked in Copa America.

Like USA Basketball, we have to accept that we HAVE gotten complacent, we can't show up and outmuscle anyone anymore. Even with that, I still think with Hope in goal it was a 50-50 shot against Brazil. Ditto on firing Gulati.

Posted by: Dennis Justice | September 29, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Quoting Gulati: "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."

I hope I'm not perceived as being an ass, but I truly don't know the answers to my questions:
Why wouldn't the new domestic women's league be able to pick up Marta, Cristiane or Birgit Prinz? What options do they have to play soccer for a salary? There aren't women's domestic leagues in Brazil or Argentina, right? Am I completely off base?

Posted by: Beaker | September 29, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

These are very good questions, Beaker, and in fact, I suspect you've already answered your own questions. In fact, semipro is the norm around the world; that is what made the defunct WUSA so distinctive. The WUSA salary range was something like $20K to $80K; presumably the new league would also be in this ballpark. The WUSA was pretty successful at getting most of the international stars of the day: Gao Hong and Sun Wen from China; Sissi and Pretinha from Brazil; Kelly Smith from England; Hege Riise from Norway; and many more. We'll have to wait and see whether a new league is similarly successful.

Posted by: Section 410 | September 29, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

From the office of over-analysis:

Did anyone notice in the 91st minute that Cristiane steamrolled over Lori Chalupny's back much the way she did to Boxx? Were you surprised when she didn't start waving two fingers to get Chalupny expelled since she already had a yellow?

Posted by: calvester | September 29, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I would wager that someone like Marta is semi-pro in name only, her deal was probably accompanied by a job somewhere else that doesn't take up too much time.

Posted by: Northzax | September 29, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Who would be providing Marta with such an arrangement, and what are they getting out of it? Are they doing it on a pro bono basis, knowing they won't make any money off the deal? In other words, is there a Swedish Anschutz out there? How much revenue does a Swedish semipro league generate, anyway?

Posted by: Section 410 | September 29, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I won't claim to know all of the details regarding the "semi-pro" status of other female internationals. But what I interpret Gulati's comments regarding Marta and WUSA-2 to mean are this:
--the venture (ie: women's pro soccer) doesn't have a lot of credibility, it is ESSENTIAL that the league not go belly-up in a few years b/c of costs.
--for that reason, there is just no-way, no-how that any player, even the consensus best player in the world, gets paid more than $25k.
--folks, last time I checked, $25k is a terrible wage in a major US city, especially if you don't have a family to live with. We can say she wouldn't get more in Europe but that's not my understanding. Many of these teams can do stuff like....provide a car, an apartment, provide a "job" (that the player never reports to), provide full health insurance. Some of the English women may be playing with semi-pro teams but they probably have affiliated jobs, clinics and advertising with their big clubs (ie: Arsenal and so on) that WUSA just can't match.

2. Gulati could have given a ringing endorsement of Ryan. He didn't (while not undercutting him as well). My personal take is that Ryan is gone (especially if we don't dominate Norge). The reason is will be a combination of both the USWNT not winning the WC, looking bad in losing to Brazil, but also the dependence on long-ball and set pieces. Part of the criticism of April Heinrichs was exactly the same--the inability of the team to score on other than set pieces and restarts. And the mention that Gulati had of "doubling down"--of USSF investing even more resources...that basically says that Ryan got lots of support, Brazil didn't. If you think I'm blowing smoke, look at the comments Gulati had to say after the Men's WC--he was far more positive of Bruce Arena than he was of Ryan--and Arena was let go.

Posted by: JoeW | September 29, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

The decline in the USWNT is another clear sign that the USSF is being mismanaged. I'd fire Gulati and Ryan and get in some people that actually understand football. If a youth coach made that boneheaded keeper switch and moronic subs I'd laugh but to have it happen in a world cup is just beyond belief. Even if the US women had won the WC, I'd fire Ryan for his ugly long ball style and selection of slow, overly physical player with limited technique at a time when the rest of the world is getting faster and more skilled.

Posted by: Cannon | September 29, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

So he doesn't want to fire Ryan until they get home. The minute he steps off the plane. Please? I'm hoping that's what he meant.
They both need to get the boot. The players, under a knowledgeable, skilled, gifted and creative coach will flourish and return to the USWNT we can be proud of. I'm not writing them off, the potential is there, but if we're stuck with the same coach after this, well, we're doomed to mediocrity.

Posted by: arrgh | September 29, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

The new US women's league has a more modest business model than the WUSA. Players' salaries will be in the 20-40K range. The Swedish league can pay more for top international players. US players like Hope Solo, Tiffeny Milbrett and Kristine Lilly have played in Sweden since WUSA folded. The new US league may well be more competitive, which may offset the salary differential to attract international players.

There is absolutely no doubt that the USWNT has suffered from the lack of a domestic league. Players need ongoing match experience to hone their skills, which they don't get from residency and occasional friendlies. If Osborne, Chalupny, Tarpley, Lloyd, Kai, and O'Reilly, etc had a league to play in, you wouldn't be seeing the "inexperience" lapses they've all displayed in this World Cup. Of course, a better WNT coach would help. These are talented players - now they need the coaching and match time to maximize that talent.

Posted by: leftcoaster | September 29, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Want to add that I am expecting to see a very different lineup and gameplan against Norway, not just a change in keepers. Norway offers the perfect chance to showcase the best possession play the US can muster. I look for Tarpley, Chalupny, Osborne and Wagner to all get significant minutes, and for the ball to move through the midfield as much as possible. Bri should be fine in front of whatever backline is fielded, though Markgraff's injury may be an issue.

I think this team can beat Norway, and god knows they'll be motivated. I just hope a good showing doesn't turn into an argument to keep Ryan, who should be sent home on a very slow boat from China.

Posted by: leftcoaster | September 29, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

It's a pity the Hope brouhaha is overshadowing the blowing-away of the Americans by the Brazilians. The latter is the real story. The Bazilians were far more nimble, creative, technically skilled, and quick. They made the Americans look downright sluggish, as if they had tar on the bottom of their shoes. Oh, the embarrassment! Let's hope the stakeholders throughout women's soccer don't hunt for excuses -- lame -- but instead accept that the rest of the world has caught up and in some cases surpassed, the U.S. has dropped back ... or both. Given the yawning gulf between the display put on by Brazil and the U.S, I'm not confident about the short-term future.

Posted by: luvn'it | September 29, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm not going to hold my breath until Sunil Gulati actually puts a woman in charge of the women's team.

Posted by: truth | September 29, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I bet a lot of the "20 players standing together being strong together" are in reality afraid to come out say that they agree with Hope and that she is 100 percent right. How many of them before she made her public comments encouraged her to do just that. Ryan made the worst coaching mistake in world cup history and they all know it. Ryan is a hypocrite. Free speech he says...ha. Half way around the world in a communist country and they isolate this girl. Brave, compassionate, forgiving Ryan...and he says trust once lost is so much harder to be earned...get rid of this bum.

Posted by: Soccer Dad | September 29, 2007 11:18 PM | Report abuse

drop all of the non skillful players and Ryan, and bring in all of the young talent from the us youth and college ranks
and hire Mark Krikorian if we want to
evolve with the modern game

Posted by: real baller | September 30, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Why didn't Tarpley get more playing time? She's clearly one of the more/most skillful players on the team? (She made an immediate impact in the Norwegian game.)

I ask but I think I know the answer: she didn't "fit" into the ugly, direct long ball style that Ryan used. In fact, she would (have) fit in perfectly with another side: Brazil!

Posted by: Soccer Fan | October 1, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

The US dollar is declining rapidly. A year ago, the US dollar equaled about 1.2 Canadian Dollars. This week, the Canadian dollar surpassed it.

With the declining value, I don't expect you'd get too many big stars for lower-class salaries.

Posted by: Sean | October 1, 2007 11:16 PM | Report abuse

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