OVER AND OUT Ryan's contract as women's national coach won't be renewed by U.S. Soccer
Despite losing only once, Greg Ryan won't be coming back as U.S. national women's coach.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis
The other soccer boot dropped for Greg Ryan Monday.
Ryan, considered a dead coach walking after the U.S.'s failure and disappointing third-place performance at last month's Women's World Cup, essentially was given the boot by U.S. Soccer and won't return to guide the team at the Beijing Olympics.
The option of Ryan's $175,000 contract, which expires Dec. 31, won't be picked up by U.S. Soccer.
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said during a teleconference call that he plans to name a successor within 30-45 days, if not sooner, because the National Team starts training camp in January for February's Olympic qualifiers with the Beijing Summer Games a scant nine months away.
Gulati will head a three-person search committee that includes U.S. superstar and National Soccer Hall of Famer Mia Hamm and secretary general Dan Flynn.
Gulati said “we will hire the best coach we can . . . If that’s a woman, that would be terrific.”
It appears Gulati and U.S. Soccer won't have to look under rocks for potential candidates.
Tony DiCicco, who directed the U.S. women to an Olympic gold medal (1996) and a WWC crown (1999), said he was interested in the position. DiCicco, under contract with the Boston team in the revived women's pro league that is scheduled to begin in 2009, said the team's management wouldn't stop him from pursuing the top job.
"It's a unique and special position in sports and obviously the best women's coaching position worldwide," he said.
Other probable candidates expected to be high on the list are former Boston Breakers coach, China assistant coach and Swedish native Pia Sundhage, U.S. Under-20 women's coach Jillian Ellis and Washington Freedom coach Jim Gabarra, the husband of former U.S. international Carin Gabarra.
Given the short period of time to name a coach, Gulati said that "it makes very hard for someone without any experience in the United States to be considered, not impossible."
The new coach doesn't necessarily have to be American, though, Gulati said.
“We’ll hire the best possible person we can, whether that’s an American, someone based in the United States or someone abroad." he said.
"The other critical thing is having someone with experience at a high level, and who has been successful at a high level. That could mean someone in the U.S. or someone abroad. We’re looking for two things: someone who can make sure we’re ready for qualification and ultimately the Beijing Olympics, and someone who can carry the program forward developmentally over the long term. We’ll look anywhere and everywhere."
And the new coach doesn't have to have international experience.
“No, it doesn’t have to be with the senior national team," Gulati said. "If it did, we’d only have three or four candidates. It could be someone involved with our youth national teams, and we think experience at that level is important.”
Flynn said that Ryan was informed about the decision around 11:30 a.m. CT Sunday, a day after the U.S. completed a three-game tour with Mexico in a 1-1 draw in Albuquerque, N.M. (the Americans went 2-0-1).
"I would say, generally speaking, he was very thankful for the opportunity to coach the National Team," he said. "I think he was disappointed in not having a chance to go after Olympic gold.”
Gulati wouldn't say whether Ryan's controversial decision to switch to goalkeeper Briana Scurry over Hope Solo and the ensuing fireworks -- Solo criticized the move and Scurry on TV -- and the resulting 4-0 semifinal loss to Brazil was the No. 1 factor in the decision not to retain the coach.
But there were a number of factors that led to Ryan's demise. The U.S. played well below expectations in China and Ryan made several confounding substitutions that left observers shaking their heads in disbelief. That included not resting starters by using the full allotment of three subs per match, especially in the opening round, and bringing in defenders instead of attackers when the U.S. trailed Brazil in the semis.
"We weighed out everything that took place," he said. "I'm not going to point to anyone factor or individual decision. I'm not going to put a particular percentage on any decision."
Gulati later added: "We didn't perform as well as we could have in the tournament. . . . We have to get better to bring home all the colored medals everyone expects."
During his three-year tenure, Ryan had been one loss en route to a 41-1-9 record. But given the American women's glorious history -- two WWC titles and a pair of Olympic gold medals -- bronze medals are considered failure.
"The expectation is to compete for a gold medal virtually every time we're in competition," Gulati said.
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