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Quote Sheet: Ryan Out As WNT Coach

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati

“At the conclusion of each world championship cycle, every national team's performance is closely analyzed,” said Gulati in making the announcement. “There are many factors considered in this analysis, and it certainly isn't just about one loss or one particular coaching decision. In this case, after looking closely at the last six weeks and the team's performance at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, we have made a decision to change leadership of the U.S. Women’s National Team. I want to thank Greg Ryan and his staff for their work over the last two-plus years. We look forward to the continued development of our National Team as one of the best in the world.”

Opening Statement:
SG: “As I outlined in China, and subsequent to that, we’ve been over the past couple of weeks involved in an intensive review of our Women’s National Team experience at the World Cup, and over the past two years. To conclude that review, today I am announcing that we will not be moving forward with Greg Ryan as our coach and we’ll set up an immediate search committee to find a new coach for the Women’s National Team.

I want to thank Greg for his efforts for the last few years as well as the efforts of his staff, but we’ve decided that we want to move in a different direction. We will appoint a search committee that will be comprised of three people: Dan Flynn, General Secretary of U.S. Soccer, Mia Hamm, our Hall of Fame National Team player for many years, and myself. It’s my expectation that we will complete that process within 30-45 days, if not sooner. The timing is rather critical because the team is in competition relatively early in the new year. We’ll be moving forward with that starting today and hopefully have news for you very shortly.”

On what steps the Federation can take to catch up to Brazil’s technical skill:
SG: “I think I agree with part of that premise, that Brazil certainly had a different style of soccer than everyone else. After the semifinal, one would have said that style is always effective. At a media round table in China, I made it very clear that while they are technically very gifted, that didn’t always mean they would win their games, as the Final proved. I would agree that Germany had a better tournament, but I’m not sure I’d go quite so far on the stylistic issue. It’s clear that a number of teams around the world are playing at a much higher level than they have previously. Germany is not in that category, as they’ve had a good team for many years. Brazil, certainly, in the last two international events has looked like ‘Brazil’ and have played the soccer we expect from Brazil, but they haven’t won a gold medal in either of those two events. Along with the technical review we’re doing on the men’s side and the boys’ side of things, as soon as we name a coach we will start a similar study on the girls’ side, keeping in mind that we have a major competition in 10 months. I think some of the things we do on the boys’ side, we will do at the youth level for the girls’ side, and there will be other programs that will be tailor-made for the issues that we face developmentally with young girls and teenagers.”

On how much the goalkeeper situation played into this decision:
SG: “We weighed in everything that took place, principally in the last 45 days, and partially over the past couple of years. Obviously the highlight of those last two years of preparation and training was the 30 days in China. I’m not going to point to any one fact or one individual decision. Obviously coaching decisions impact games, and all of that weighed in. I’m not going to try to put a percentage on any particular result or decision.”

On the importance of hiring a female head coach:
SG: “Obviously we had the national team led by April Heinrichs for a number of years, but prior to that we’ve had men’s coaches. We’ll certainly be talking with some female candidates over the next two to three weeks, but we’ll hire the best coach we can for the national team. If that’s a woman, that would be terrific. We have a general manager who is a woman, and my guess is that there will be additional staff members in our group that will be women, but that will be up to the head coach. I can’t promise whether the head coach will be male or female. We’re going to hire the best person we can.”

On why the standard of excellence is different with the women’s team than it is with the men:
SG: “We do bring a different expectation and standard to our women’s program. My guess is that if we had gotten to the World Cup Final in Germany (in 2006), we would have said ‘wow, that was pretty terrific.’ In our women’s program, because of the excellence that group has achieved over time, the expectations are much higher and frankly the players and our fans, knows we can’t win every game, but the expectation is that we’re going to be competing for a gold medal virtually every time we’re in competition. Greg’s record over the past two years is very good in terms of winning percentage he’s probably the best we’ve had. At the end of the process, which is the China part of it, it’s not just about one result. It was an overall assessment, and based on all of that, we felt that it was time to make a change.”

On whether Ryan ‘lost the team’ in China:
SG: “I can say that part of the process that Dan Flynn and I have engaged in over the last few weeks is to talk with members of the team, but I’m not going to use terminology like he ‘lost’ the team.”

On whether he is concerned about the technical skill of the U.S. team falling behind Brazil and Germany:
SG: “As the Brazilians found out, technical skill doesn’t always mean you win. If that were the case, then on the men’s side Brazil and Argentina would win every World Cup, and on the women’s side now, Brazil would win every World Cup but they haven’t won a World Cup or an Olympics. The technical part of looking at a game isn’t just about the dribbling, it’s about defending, tackling and passing. We didn’t perform as well as we could in this tournament. I don’t think we’ve fallen behind Germany. We’ve played against that team and matched up well against Germany. What’s happened is that a number of programs around the world have invested heavily in their programs and achieved a level of soccer that is higher than it was a decade ago. I’m not concerned that we’ve fallen off, but once you’re in this top five area, what it takes to stay there is pretty demanding and we’ve got to get better if we’re going to keep bringing home gold.”

On whether Hope Solo not being around the team following the semifinal defeat is a situation that would have been handled differently on the men’s team:
SG: “I think that most of the participants in that issue, if they could do it all over again, would have done it differently. That decision was made by the coach, with the support, or at the request of the players, I’m not sure how to paraphrase that. I think the men’s and women’s teams are different. The players on the women’s side have said to me repeatedly that there are things that are different, obviously about how they play, how they respond emotionally to certain situations. I accept that. I think that we’ve had issues in the past, not exactly like this but similar, and the thing that separates this issue is not men versus women, it’s that the issue was public. It was on the highest stage at the World Cup. We’ve had issues with players in the past with discontent or who are unhappy with coaches’ decisions, whatever it may be, but they have been handled internally. I don’t want to speculate how it would have been handled differently if something like this happened on the men’s side. My guess is that it would have been different, but that is because the players and people are different.”

On the criteria that will be used in hiring the new coach:
SG: “We’ll hire the best possible person we can, whether that’s an American, someone based in the United States or someone abroad. I think given the very short turnaround time we have before competition makes it very hard for someone without any experience in the United States to be considered very hard. That doesn’t mean it has to be an American coach, but someone with experience in the American game and the American set-up. 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, but we’ve got a time issue, so I think it would be someone with American experience and someone who has been involved in a national team level, whether it’s in the U.S. or abroad.”

On whether current players will be involved in the hiring process:
SG: “We will seek the input of current players, and we’ve been doing that over the past few weeks in assessing the situation.”

On how Greg Ryan will be compensated:
SG: “Greg’s contract goes until the end of the year, and we’ll honor that contract obviously, and the decision that we made is to not exercise an option in his contract to extend it. His contract is to the end of the year, the team doesn’t have any additional games and I don’t think we’re expecting any services between now and then with the exception of a post-competition analysis and review.”

On the importance of a fresh perspective with the team and reports on Pia Sundhage being contacted about the position:
SG: “We are going to have a fresh perspective with a new coach. I think there is something to be said for new thoughts, whether that is in the form of a head coach, and assistant coach or a coach who is open to different ideas. That’s really the process we’re looking at going forward. I’m aware of the comments of Pia Sundhage, and I’m not sure whether they were entirely accurate, but I’m not going to comment on individual candidates.”

On whether the new coach needs senior international experience:
SG: “No, it doesn’t have to be with the senior national team. 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.”

On whether Tony DiCicco has been contacted or expressed an interest in the position of U.S. Women’s National Team head coach:
SG: “I’m not going to get into specific candidates. There’s a pretty simple reason for that. Some of the people that we are going to be talking to are in employment situations that would not necessarily preclude them from joining us at the right time but that they wouldn’t want to be upsetting right now. If I’m not going to be talking about some, then it’s very hard to talk about others. Tony, in the aspect, obviously, is a very successful coach. He’s coached at a high level and he knows the American game, so he fits those criteria that I mentioned, but I’m not going to talk about whether we’ve talked to him or are going to.”

On the importance of having Mia Hamm on the search committee and what she will be able to add:
SG: “We, in discussing it the other night, thought it was important that there was a player that was in the group. We wanted to keep the group quite small because of time commitments and time constraints over the next few weeks. We’re going to have to move quickly. We talked about a few different players who could fill that role. We have a number of terrific and smart players that have played for our team and we thought it was important that we actually have a player who was no longer with the team. Mia was the first player on that list. I talked to her and she was enthusiastic to participate. She’s obviously a world-class player, knows the game, my guess is that she will know a number of the people that we’ll be talking to over the next weeks and expressed an enthusiastic interest in participating, so that made it easy.”

On how Greg Ryan was informed of the decision:
DF: “Greg was communicated with on Sunday around 11:30 a.m. Chicago-time. I would say, generally speaking, he was very thankful for the opportunity to coach the National Team and I think he was disappointed in not having a chance to go after Olympic gold.”

On whether Hope Solo will still be considered for the U.S. Women’s National Team:
SG: “Regarding Hope, the answer is, ‘Yes.’ Hope is not suspended from the team. Hope would be invited to the Residency Program next year. Any further discussions or decisions about Hope would be up to the new head coach, but there is not an issue with the Federation in any way, shape or form about her participation. I have talked with her. Dan has talked with her. So, from our perspective, she is absolutely eligible to play for the U.S. team.”

On how the process for selecting the U.S. Women’s National Team coach is different from selecting the U.S. Men’s National Team coach:
SG: “I think that, frankly, the biggest difference is the timing. We’ve got a competition very quickly around the corner, both qualification and the Beijing Olympics. So, on the women’s side, with these back-to-back competitions, it’s very dramatically different than on the men’s side, where you have a year minimum before an important competition like the Gold Cup and almost two years before World Cup qualifying and, obviously, virtually four years before the World Cup. I think that’s the sharpest difference. And then, perhaps the other is that on the men’s side, because of the existence of professional leagues throughout the world, the list of candidates one can draw up that have coached at a very high level, whether it’s with national teams or with club teams, it is pretty extensive. That’s less the case on the women’s side, because we don’t have women’s leagues established in the same way. We did in the United States a few years ago and I’m hopeful and optimistic that we’ll have a very successful league in 2009 and beyond. But in the absence of that, the search process is different because you’re looking for coaches in a different way, from different avenues, whether it’s coaches who’ve coached nationally that are abroad, top level players that have gotten involved in college coaching or club coaching and so on. That certainly makes it very different and unique, I think.”

On whether the coach will have a least one female assistant if a male coach is selected:
SG: “Do I expect? I think it’s quite likely that they would but are we going to mandate that, the answer is, ‘No.’ I think it’s critical that the head coach pick his or her staff that they’re comfortable with and they think they can work well with. Would be encourage them to do that if it was a male? The answer is, ‘Yes.’ But it’s not going to be a pre-requisite, so we wouldn’t mandate it. The other thing I would say is that you are right. The staff coaches in this particular group were all men. Under Tony DiCicco, Lauren Gregg was an assistant, and under Anson (Dorrance), and with April (Heinrichs) we had a head coach who was a woman and the person that is in charge of the team when we’re on the road, our general manager, is a woman.”

On what he will expect from the new coach in terms of performance:
SG: “It can’t be record alone. We’re not going to win every game we play. In terms of games won and lost, Ryan did very, very well. We expect to be in the situation where we have the best chance to win every time we step on the field. I think that’s the ultimate job of the coach, is to create the environment and give us the best opportunity to success, and by ‘us’ I mean, the players. We want to be in that situation. We want to be playing for gold whenever we can be. That may not always be the case. Secondly, we need to see progress. That doesn’t necessarily mean winning next week’s game three to nothing if we won two  to nothing this week. The progress developmentally, progress in overall program, progress in the way we’re playing, technically, all those areas. I think that’s how we measure, certainly over a period of time, all our coaches. The development of young players and how we’re progressing, the environment it’s created for players, leadership, all those things. That’s what coaching is about. We want to see that and that’s how we evaluate.”

On whether a coach would be considered for only one year, considering the re-launch of a women’s league in 2009:
SG: “I think everything is possible. I don’t want to say, ‘Yes,’ to that. It’s possible, so I guess I am saying, ‘Yes.’ We’ll consider everything and anything to achieve success in Beijing as well nurture our long-term goals in terms of development and the next World Cup. All of that is possible.”

On whether he is looking primarily at U.S. college coaches:
SG: “That would be a subset of the people we will talk to. There are coaches in the United States who do have professional experience, either abroad or when we had a women’s league, and there are obviously coaches that are abroad that have had professional experience. In the U.S. we have another group, some of them are involved in college, that have been involved in our own National Team program, whether it’s the senior team or the Under-21 team or Under-20 team and so on. I think it’s safe to say that within a short list of candidates we would have current college coaches that we would want to talk to. My guess is that in most of those cases, it would also be people that have been involved with the international game in one way or another.”

On what he would like to see from this team a year from now:
SG: “A year from now we’d like to see them on the gold medal stand in Beijing.”

On how the players were notified of the coaching decision:
DF: “The players were notified through Cheryl Bailey, the general manager of the team.”

On what the plans are for the Residency Program, going forward:
DF: “We’re looking at camp starting in January with the Four Nations Tournament. February will be Olympic qualifying, although we don’t have any final details or exact dates for that. In March we’re hoping to attend and participate in the Algarve Cup. Then in April to July, we’re hoping to have five to seven friendly matches. We obviously don’t have opponents lined up but we have slotted time for those in our schedule.”

On whether Greg Ryan made the wrong decision in playing Briana Scurry against Brazil:
SG: “I don’t think I’m going to second-guess an individual decision made by a coach. Obviously, we were unbeaten in the tournament until then and we had a pretty significant loss. Would it have been different if Hope Solo had played in goal? I don’t know. Would it have been different if we didn’t have an own goal and a player sent off? By all accounts, the sending off was not the appropriate call under the circumstances. I don’t know. I’m not going to characterize whether it was a right or wrong decision. I’m not in a position where I want to be second-guessing an individual coaching decision. Obviously, the result of the game was not what Greg had hoped for.”

On what role player management played in his decision not to renew Greg Ryan’s contract:
SG: “Player management, which is directly related to the environment of the team, is always very important. So that is one of the factors we would consider when we’re analyzing and assessing what’s going on. To the extent that, that is an important part of whether a team is ready to play and how it performs, the answer is, ‘Yes. Of course it matters.’”

On whether the length of Residency Camp is being reconsidered based on the team not facing challenging enough competition in preparation for the World Cup:
SG: “Residency next year, by definition, will be different because the Olympics are a month earlier than the World Cup is. I’m not sure that our best minds on our technical side would agree with the assessment. We had a lot of important games last year, playing in the Four Nations Cup, playing in the Algarve (Cup), playing Norway at home and so on. We played a lot of games last year. The number of teams that one would consider first rate, how many of those are there are on the women’s side that are going to give us a challenging game when the team has lost once in the last 50-plus games? We played almost all of those teams in preparation, so I don’t think I agree with the premise that the schedule of games wasn’t hard enough. I don’t think the Residency Program is what we believe has made the fundamental difference in us not getting to the final.”

Editor's Note: In the team's seven preparation games from May through August, the U.S. played six Women's World Cup teams, including China, Brazil, Norway and Japan, as well as Canada and New Zealand. In 15 total games before the Women's World Cup in 2007, the U.S. played 12 games against team's participating in China (adding Sweden, Denmark, England and Germany to the previous list of teams).

On whether the team’s current assistant coaches are being considered for the head coach position:
SG: “For the head coaching position, no, I don’t think that would be the case. Whether they would continue, in some way, to be part of the staff, that would be up to the head coach. In terms of significant head coaching experience on the women’s side, international experience, I think we’d be looking elsewhere.”

On whether the new head coach would also act as technical director:
SG: “The answer is, ‘Yes.’ In the short-term, the person that we hire as National Team coach would be technical director. I think the amount of time they’re going to be able to dedicate to that role over the next 11 months is pretty limited, or 10 months, because of the Olympics and qualifying. That issue will be heightened if we have an international coach who doesn’t know the lay of the land.”

On whether the results of the World Cup expedited the imminent creation of a development program for youth women, similar to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy:
SG: “No, I’m not making a commitment that we would start a Development Academy-type program on the girls’ side. What we would do is start the analysis of what we should be doing at a youth level a little bit more rapidly. I’m convinced that not everything that will work on the boys’ and girls’ sides has to be identical and we’re going to tailor-make those programs. It may be that we have a development academy program or it may be that we do something very different.”

On how long it is fair to always expect the U.S. Women’s National Team to win every tournament, considering the improvement of other women’s national team programs and how the team’s performance at the World Cup influenced his decision:
SG: “The fact that we had done very, very well but in the tournament itself, didn’t perform up to the standards that, I think, the players had for themselves, and that we had all hoped for. Our expectations of our women’s team and of the women’s players of themselves are that they are going to win every game they play. Intellectually, I think they all and we all know that is not the case: they won’t win every game. But we have to be in a position, and that’s the job of the head coach and the support team and the Federation, to put the players in the best possible situation to win every game. We fully appreciate that we’re not going to win every game. In the last two years, obviously, until a few weeks ago, we had won every game. But, going forward, our expectations for excellence are still going to be there. I think that’s a good thing. So it doesn’t come down to just the fact that we lost one game.