Thursday, August 21, 2008

Redeem Team II

Congratulations to the United States Women's Soccer team for its own redemption. The team defeated Brazil 1-0 after extra time today for the Olympic gold medal. That's the same Brazil team that drilled the US 4-0 in the women's world cup last year after the US coach Greg Ryan stupidly decided to replace his starting goalkeeper, Hope Solo, with her backup. At least two of the Brazilian goals should have been stopped by competent goalkeeping.

The fallout from that match was enormous: (1) Solo ripped Ryan after the loss for his decision and stated that she would have made some of the saves that her backup, '99 World Cup winning goalie Brianna Scurry, bonked; (2) the team united against Solo and ostracized her; (3) Ryan tossed her off the team; (4) the old royalty of US women's soccer (Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy) ripped Solo and said she should never play again for the national team; they all played with Scurry when Scurry had been in her prime but as of the World Cup '07, Solo had an undefeated streak of about 40 games and Scurry hadn't played a meaningful game in years.

But the US Soccer Federation was wiser than Ryan and the old guard. First, it fired Ryan, and with good reason -- his colossally stupid coaching decision destroyed the team and his failure to communicate with his high-strung starting 'keeper showed he cannot manage top talent. Second, it replaced him with top notch coach Pia Sundhage, who brought Solo back into the team (after apologies and some making up).

And Solo, who may be the best women's goalkeeper in the world, won her starting job back.

Then she saved the team in the gold medal match, as the AP notes:

Solo kept them in the game for the first 85 minutes, making at least a half-dozen big saves. The most impressive came in the 72nd minute, when Marta lost the ball behind Heather Mitts and Kate Markgraf and then picked it back up for a close-range shot that looked certain to be in. But Solo leaned out, threw up her right arm and sent the ball flying out of harm's way.

So congratulations to the women's soccer Olympic champions. And to Hope Solo -- there's no doubt you are the golden goalie of American women's soccer.

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