FOR ALL of the attention the Hope Solo affair got during last month's Women's World Cup (SI, Oct. 8), it wasn't the baffling decision to bench his goalkeeper and then boot her off the team when she complained that did in U.S. coach Greg Ryan, who was fired on Monday. No, Ryan's downfall was that the U.S. played unimaginative, uninspired soccer. While Brazil put on a dazzling display, dancing around U.S. defenders in a 4--0 rout in the semifinals, the Americans seemed content to hoof the ball in the direction of 5'11" Abby Wambach and hope for the best. "We were a little predictable this World Cup, and we have to get some new methods to our attack," forward Heather O'Reilly said. We can look for Abby's head, but we've got to open the game up in other ways."
The loss to Brazil was only the second defeat Ryan suffered in his nearly three years in charge, but it's likely that anything short of a World Cup title would have cost him his job. Ryan never had much of a mandate. He was hired in 2005 after April Heinrichs was ousted in a players' revolt. Then U.S. Soccer president Bob Contiguglia passed on several higher profile candidates and selected Heinrichs's top assistant, Ryan, whose last head-coaching gig had been an unremarkable stint at Colorado College. By refusing to overhaul the staff, U.S. Soccer sent a message to the players that the federation was still calling the shots.
The decision to axe Ryan was made by Sunil Gulati, who took over as U.S. Soccer president in 2006. Gulati was vague about a successor, other than to say that he wanted someone who is familiar with the U.S. setup and has international experience. Whatever Gulati decides, expect it soon. Olympic qualifying begins early next year.