Ryan had been under intense scrutiny after his highly controversial decision to switch goalkeepers in this summer's Women's World Cup in China.
Hope Solo had been the starter throughout the tournament, helping the American side reach the semifinals. But before the semifinal match against Brazil, Ryan made the decision to play 36-year-old veteran Briana Scurry instead—who hadn't played in a game in several months.
The Americans lost the match to the Brazilians by a score of 4-0, the worst loss in U.S. Women's World Cup history.
After the loss, Solo questioned Ryan's decision, saying, "It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that."
Solo's comments were seen on every television channel, heard on every radio station, and read in every newspaper.
Coach Ryan declined to allow Solo to participate with the team for their third-place game—in essence, suspending her for the remainder of the WWC.
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati denied that Ryan's goalkeeping decision cost him his job, saying, "It certainly isn't just about one loss or one particular coaching decision."
The lone loss? The 4-0 loss to Brazil in this year's Women's World Cup semifinals.
While the numbers are surely impressive, they don't speak of exactly how damaging that one loss was to the U.S. program.
The Americans were the clear number one team in the World coming into the WWC, only to finish in a depressing third place.
The media disaster that resulted after the "Ryan vs. Solo" situation created publicity that the U.S. Soccer Federation would rather not have.
All of this negativity can be traced back to one decision.
Would the U.S. team have won the game if Solo had been in the goal? We'll never know—it would be ridiculous to argue either way.
Regardless of the result of that one game, Ryan will forever be remembered for his decision to switch goalkeepers before the semifinals of the World Cup, rather than for his leadership in guiding the U.S. to a 53-game unbeaten streak.
We can only hope that Ryan's successor will lead the squad to an equally impressive streak—hopefully winning more Olympic Gold Medals and World Cups along the way.
A three-person search committee, including Mia Hamm, will begin looking for a new head coach, and is expected to announce Ryan's successor within the next 45 days.
The U.S. Women's National Team will be preparing for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.
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