Q&A with USSF prez Sunil Gulati
From the 86th floor of the Jin Mao Tower, nearly 1,200 feet above the bustling Pudong business district, the views of the skyline here are awe-inspiring. And so it seemed like a good place to have lunch with U.S. Soccer president
Here's what the prez had to say:
In this tournament, I can't say that. When a team like Argentina is a lot better than you man for man and you get a result out of it, that's fantastic, because you had to play well to do it. It's not something where you can control how good they are. In this tournament it's frustrating because we blew up on things that we can control. Disciplinary issues, mental breakdowns. And I'm not talking about this sort of mental breakdown where everybody says it's a mental breakdown if somebody plays a ball back and a player walks in and steals it. That's a mental breakdown also, a technical breakdown.
But in this case, to have in the last 20, 25 minutes of the Holland game and the first five minutes of this [Nigeria] game to make what are four very costly mistakes -- four cards -- and all of them hurt us, that's
Did we have some bright spots in terms of play of certain players and 70 very good minutes against Holland? Sure. I'm not going to say it was all negative. But when you've got it in your hands, you know, that's pretty frustrating. Pretty frustrating.
Could he have also given a yellow card? Probably. Would other referees have given a yellow card? Possibly. But in the end you don't put yourself in that situation. I've heard the comment "We didn't get any breaks." We didn't need any breaks. We needed to just not lose our mind on a few cases. And if
So I don't look for excuses from [head coach]
So I've read things that
So I don't evaluate Peter, it's evaluating the team, and obviously Peter's the head of that team. And those reviews are we clearly didn't get done what we set out to do. But it's not all negative, for sure.
But we're 30 seconds away from qualifying after two games. And then three minutes later we're playing a man short [against Nigeria]. I think those things highlight this tournament.
The other noteworthy thing about this tournament is it's the first time we've ever brought all professionals to a non-senior team competition. So that's a plus. It would be a lot easier to say that was a critical factor if we'd advanced.
The second game looks better in retrospect after Japan takes Norway to pieces. So people say it was only 1-0, well, Japan is a pretty good team, and when they score five against Norway everybody understands they're a pretty good team. It's pretty clear that the women's game, not just at the top three or four in terms of competing with the U.S., but that even in the middle parts the scores aren't as wide as they were even two or three years ago. And in an odd way one of the wide scores is the reverse in Japan against Norway.
I think our team has done fine here. Obviously a big blow to the team's efforts just before the tournament with
But I think in games two and three, and especially in game three, the team showed that it's going to take a lot to keep them off the medal stand. Is that possible? Sure. But if you win today then basically you've got two shots at a medal. I don't think there's anyone on that team or that staff that wants anything except a particular color of medal. But they understand that we're going to have to play well and get some bounces of the ball and that's going to have to happen.
I think Pia's done a great job from everything we've seen. So we are very pleased with the way things have gone to this point, including how the team has played, including the feedback we've had from the team. So all of that's a big plus. So if we end up not achieving the goal that everyone wants, does that mean we make a certain decision and not continue [with Sundhage]? No. Does it mean if we lose a close game in the final game and say O.K., but if Abby had been there we would have won, so therefore ... ? It's not the way life works. So I think it's safe to say that
I often say this about coaches. If the ball from Charlie Davies goes in, we advance. I guess Peter should have said to Charlie, "If you get a chance in the 90th minute on a header, try to get it just below the bar..." My point: All of those things matter.
Now the game last here here [against Brazil] was 4-0. So it wasn't much of a game. We understand Abby's importance to this team. And an evaluation of this team and the performance of this team wouldn't neglect that. That's the easiest way to say it. The men's [senior] team is different when Landon's on the field and not on the field, and Landon's scoring rate is nothing like Abby's. There aren't many players in the world, men or women, that have the scoring rate she does in international soccer. So to think that doesn't impact the performance of the team, and therefore the evaluation, would be silly.
So that process started earlier.
On the women's side, we started that process essentially at the beginning of this year with three former national-team coaches and
An obvious example: It's pretty clear that on the men's side, players of college age are doing something different in other countries, and doing something that's more developmentally beneficial. So on the men's side that was critical for us to have something that was better as an alternative.
On the women's, we have a lot of top college teams who could do just fine playing internationally. And the economic incentives for women's players are very different than for men's players. So we may not ever have a Project-40 or a Bradenton for women, or a development academy. So I think you will see some things on the women's side that'll come out of the group. It was a year on the men's side looking at stuff before we did anything.
But there will be some concerted efforts regardless of what happens here on what we do. It may be that we hire someone to focus on those efforts. But that's a process that's ongoing. So the timing is just slightly different, because in women's competition you have two major competitions every four years. Changing coaches is a timely place to review things. That happened earlier with the men, obviously.
On the women's side Pia hasn't been involved in the process of looking at it for the last year. Not because of the short-term nature of our first agreement with her, but because she's completely tied up with this team.
So that would be the equivalent of saying: Is it a concern that the Bulls were so reliant on
I disagree with that premise. I think we have a lot of good players. I don't think last September a few of them who are capable of it performed to the level we had expected and hoped.