Ryan out as U.S. women's coach
High expectations can create major repercussions.
That was defender Cat Whitehill's reaction to the news Greg Ryan is out as the U.S. women's soccer coach. The decision came less than a month after his top-ranked team lost in the World Cup semifinals following a contentious goalie switch.
"With the standards our team has set, if you don't win, it's hard to keep your job," Whitehill said Monday, a day after players and Ryan were informed of the move. "Nothing against the way Greg Ryan coached, but we didn't play as well as we should have."
Ryan's contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of the year. The squad does not play any more games in 2007.
"I'm not going to point to any one factor or one individual decision," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said on a conference call Monday announcing the change. "Obviously, coaches' decisions impact games. All that was weighed in."
Ryan could not be reached for comment.
Gulati, U.S. Soccer secretary general Dan Flynn and retired star Mia Hamm will form the search committee. Gulati expects to make a hire in the next 30-45 days, with the team set to resume training in January. The new coach will come in with just eight months to prepare for the Beijing Olympics.
Gulati said he wants a candidate who is familiar with American soccer, who has experience coaching in international events.
Ryan was 45-1-9 since taking over in early 2005, but Gulati made clear that the lone loss weighed heavily in the decision because it meant Ryan failed to win his only major tournament.
Gulati also indicated that poor performances in games the U.S. won or tied factored into the choice to sever ties.
"The expectation is to compete for a gold medal virtually every time we're in competition," Gulati said.
With the Americans favored to win their third World Cup, Ryan decided before their match with Brazil to make a change in goal, replacing Hope Solo with veteran Briana Scurry. Solo had allowed two goals in four World Cup starts and had a shutout string of nearly 300 minutes. Scurry, the goalie for the 1999 World Cup champs, had beaten Brazil two straight times.
The U.S. lost 4-0 and had to settle for third place, and Solo ripped Ryan for the move.
Solo is not suspended from the team and will be invited to next year's residency program, Gulati said.
Solo said through a spokesman that she wouldn't comment until the team gathers in January.
Forward Heather O'Reilly said distractions wouldn't have lingered had Ryan remained coach.
"We were looking to move forward if it was Greg or if it was a new coaching staff," O'Reilly said.
Gulati said he and Flynn spoke to players in evaluating Ryan and that the committee would seek input from team members during the hiring process.
Ryan's assistants -- Bret Hall, Phil Weddon and Billy McNicol -- don't have the experience to be considered for the head coaching job, Gulati said. The new coach will decide whether to retain them.
The 50-year-old Ryan, a longtime college coach, was an assistant on the gold-medal-winning U.S. team at the 2004 Olympics.
In a sport once dominated by a few powers, last month's World Cup reflected the greater commitment to women's soccer by many countries.
"I'm not concerned we've fallen off," Gulati said. "What it takes to stay even is clearly more demanding."