SHANGHAI, China (Sept. 29, 2007) - U.S. Women's National Team head coach Greg Ryan, team captain Kristine Lilly and forward Abby Wambach confirmed Saturday in a press conference in Shanghai, China, that goalkeeper Hope Solo would not be a part of the team's preparation in advance of the USA's third-place match with Norway on Sunday.
Ryan made the decision in consultation with his team, sighting the disruption caused by Solo's comments to the press following a loss to Brazil in the tournament semifinals on Thursday evening in Hangzhou.
"We did not have Hope attend practice today," said Ryan to a press gathering in the team hotel. "She will not be attending the game tomorrow (Sunday). We have moved forward with 20 players who have stood by each other, who have battled for each other, and when the hard times came – and the Brazil game was a hard time – they stood strong. Now it is the 20 that have stuck together that will be ready to go out and compete against Norway. That’s our whole focus, and that’s what we’re going to do."
The team's leadership echoed those comments, making a point to highlight how this team has stuck together across their 22-year history.
“How we look at everything with our group is we do what’s best for the team,” said team captain Kristine Lilly. “And what is best for the team is the 20 of us right now. I think the circumstance that happened and her going public has affected the whole group, and I think having her with us is still a distraction. If we want to put our best foot forward against Norway on Sunday, this is the best way the team goes about it.”
The unified team response emphasized the player's focus and resolve in ending the tournament on a high note. The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is the only team to finish among the top three in every world championship tournament ever played, and the aim is to continue that streak on Sunday against Norway (live at 4:55 a.m. on ESPN2).
“The third place game is extremely important,” said Lilly. “As a group, to finish a World Cup experience, you want to win on a high note to show our fans that we can play better soccer. You don’t always have another game, but we have another game and it’s our opportunity to get out on the field and show what we can do and how we love this game and make our country proud. That’s why we are here. We are representing our country and also U.S. Soccer. This is a game we want to show what we can do and make them proud.”
The team’s leading scorer in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Abby Wambach, focused on the team and how they have come together stronger than ever in dealing with the distraction.
“It’s an unfortunate circumstance,” said Wambach, who has scored four goals in the tournament. “We are women who fight, and we are a family. I am very proud of this team and how we have all handled this. I am very proud of our staff and our coaching staff on how they’ve handled this. It’s not easy, and it just goes to show the character of this team, how we have handled it.”
Perhaps most important to the player's in moving forward, was the team's legacy of camaraderie and always being united on and off the field.
“It’s your losses in life, it’s your defeats that reveal your character and we all know that,” said Ryan. “The reason I mention that is I am so impressed with our players and their character. This has been very hard for them because they care deeply about each other. They have come together and backed each other, supported each other in the great tradition of the Women’s National Team since its inception. Their unity is a quality that defines this group. It’s the core of their being. And, they are unwilling, and rightly so, for us to move forward and leave that quality behind.”
On the status of Solo and her future with the team, Wambach acknowledged that the team had received an apology from Solo, saying: “Hope did come in and apologize, and it’s just going to be a matter of time. We’re all humans and we all feel equally about certain subjects and the forgiveness on our team’s hearts is just going to have to come in time. For me, as a person, that’s the most real thing I could say.”