"I have a soccer question for you! Why is it such a big deal to switch goalies during a game? The US women should have done that today against Brazil and they didn't. Please explain."
Welcome to the first edition of "The Mailbag". It's a new feature, seeing as though this is the first question ever to be posted to the blog.
Really, it's a great question. It stems from the Women's World Cup Semifinal match last week between The US and Brazil. Up until that point in the tournament, the US had been starting a young keeper by the name of Hope Solo. While she gave up two goals in the first match of the tourney, she responded with 300 scoreless minutes. That's really good. Well, for this huge match, the Greg Ryan, the US coach, decided to go with a different keeper. Brianna Scurry has been a great keeper over the years for the US, but she hadn't played a full match in three months. And yet, she got the start.
Unfortunately, the swap went horribly awry. Scurry allowed 4 goals, and the US ended up losing 4-nil. Which brings us to the question of the day. Why not just pull Scurry? There are a few reasons:
**Rules: each team only gets three subs in soccer, so you have to pick and chose when you use them.
**Situation: The first goal of the match was actually an own goal. A US defender deflected the ball into the goal off of a corner kick, so it wasn't actually Scurry's fault. Then Brazil scored another goal in the 27th minute. Right before the half (45th minute), one of the US players got sent off for a hard foul. That meant that the US had to play with just 10 players the rest of the match, while Brazil still had their full 11. This changes everything in terms of how you use your subs.
**Bench: You only have so many bench players. Since they are at such a premium, teams usually just carry a single substitute keeper. Thus, you don't really want to use that sub unless there is an injury to your primary keeper.
**Offensive Ineptitude: Things might have been a little different if the US was down 3-2, or tied up at 3-**However, since they were getting throttled, subs had to be made in a way that would maximize offence. Conventional wisdom mandates that you bring in fresh legs that can score. Since the keeper doesn't run or have opportunities to take shots on the other goal, you use your subs at other positions.
**Ego: Ryan made a bold move to not have Solo in goal. It was stupid, but bold. Coaches won't typically admit they are wrong, and pulling Scurry would have been one such admission.
The whole situation is a huge bummer. The US Women's National Team is very popular, and a win over Brazil to put them in the finals would have been huge. But as it stands, they had to settle for a third place trophy filled with controversey. It didn't help matters that Solo publicly blasted Ryan and Scurry. I guess there is always 2012