Ryan's Back, but he's Still Not the Problem

When we last saw him, former US Women's National Team Coach and (choose one: a) agent of Satan, b) pathetic imbecile or c) utter bastard who deserves to die screaming) Greg Ryan had just singlehandedly trashed his team's sure and certain march to soccer immortality at the 2007 WWC by removing Vestal Virgin Hope Solo from the starting lineup in favor of a decrepit 87 year old crone with a peg leg.

This decision allowed a band of morbidly obese Brazilian hotel maids on crutches to defeat the finest assemblage of soccer talent since that day back in the late '80s when an anonymous soccer coach from North Carolina replaced a US roster full of polite young ladies with a bunch of kids who weren't old enough to buy a drink and three of whom - Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy and a shy, skinny 15 year old named Mia Hamm - weren't old enough to be out after 9 PM on a school night.

This shameful defeat inspired dozens of print and internet columns and several hundred BigSoccer threads, all with titles like: "Greg Ryan: Moron or Idiot?" and "Greg Ryan: Is Death Too Good for Him?".

So last week when it was announced that he had accepted the job as HEAD COACH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN and, following close behind, the further news that he was SERVING AS AN ASSISTANT for the Canadian women's national team, it initiated another round of snarky, contemptuous comments amongst the BigSoccer women's soccer cognoscenti.

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's time for USWNT fans to move on, and stop treating the guy like their slothful, cheating, two-timing ex-husband.

The guy is a soccer coach, and the record would seem to indicate that there are far worse ones out there. I don't think much of anyone would contend that the guy didn't make a bad, bad mistake during the WC that may have cost the US the game and the tournament.

I would even go so far as to say that what he did was the worst possible thing that could have happened to US Women's soccer.

But not in the way most of the team's fans think of it.

Ryan's "mistake" has allowed the US to blame him, and him alone, for their shortcomings. He provided a convenient scapegoat for the fact that this ain't the outfit it used to be. Consider:

  • The three finalists for World Women's Player of the Year were two Brazilians and a German. Not an American in sight.
  • Of the six major individual awards handed out at the WWC, just one of them went to an American player(adidas Silver Boot, Abby Wambach)
  • Of the 11 players named to the All WWC Team, only one was an American (Wambach again)

Maybe I'm missing something, but if the US is so talented that it's obvious they should have won the World Cup, then shouldn't there be a few more US players recognized as being among the world's elite?

However that may be, the biggest problem I see is exemplified by this clip:

[youtube]Iba7RiOuvEQ[/youtube]

Now maybe what you see there is Greg Ryan getting beaten like a rented mule by Brazil's Marta.

What I see is a) a typical US defender - big, strong and slow - getting used and trashed by a highly skilled attacker and ending up nonchalantly jogging along like she wasn't sure what she was supposed to do next, b) another US defender making a weak, amateurish attempt at a tackle and ending up being faked out of her sports bra and almost falling down and c) an attacker moving right and shooting left, beating the keeper at the near post.

Now maybe St. Hope of the Immaculate Goalpost could have made a spectacular save on that ball. Maybe not. We'll never know.

But if US defenders can't do better than that, and if the US can't match the kind of skill players the Brazilians brought to the tournament, then all we're doing by continuing to focus on Greg Ryan is fool ourselves.

Ryan is in the past. Those of us who want the US Women's team to succeed and take advantage of all that American soccer has to offer female players need to forget Ryan and start working on figuring out what is REALLY wrong with the program.