By Glenn Davis - HOUSTON, TX (June 23, 2005) USSoccerPlayers – U.S. Women’s National Team Coach Greg Ryan is the fifth coach in charge of the Women’s National Team after replacing April Heinrichs. As a player, Ryan is a former All American at Southern Methodist University and went onto a proo career in the North American Soccer League from 1979-1984. Ryan played for the Tulsa Roughnecks, New York Cosmos, and Chicago Sting. With the Cosmos, he played alongside legendary players in the game like Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto, and Giorgio Chinalgia. Ryan won an NASL championship with the Chicago Sting in 1981.
He began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant with the Colorado College men’s team in between NASL seasons. As a head coach, he led the University of Wisconsin women’s team to a record of 108-32-12 with five trips to the NCAA tournament. Ryan recently led the Women’s National Team to the Algarve Cup Championship in Portugal.
Glenn Davis: What did your years in the NASL teach you?
Greg Ryan: I think the main thing is you never forget how hard you have to compete to win. In the pro’s you learned the game by playing with great players. If you screwed up in a game you learned by that.
GDavis: Any specific players that you remember helping with your game?
GRyan: Andranik Eskandarian of the Cosmos, I learned a lot by watching him play, I learned from Carlos Alberto. In Tulsa former Derby County player David Nish along with Alan Hinton were influences as was Chicago Sting head coach Willy Roy in Chicago. Roy was tough to play for but believed in the American player, he gave us room to experiment. It wasn’t an easy time but it was a great experience.
GDavis: How did you feel when you were named head coach of the U.S. Women’d National Team?
GRyan: I felt two things, as a coach your’e always trying to grow. It was satisfying, I know exactly what I am getting into, we are in a real transition period. We had a great start with the Algarve Cup but I go in with my eyes wide open. I know the strengths, weaknesses, it’s time to go to work.
GDavis: How will Greg Ryan’s version of the US Women’s National team look?
GRyan: It’s an interesting question. I will blend great qualities that each of our coaches have brought. From Anson Dorrance I will bring an emphasis on the individual to go at it. Anson was big on that. High pressure defending when it makes sense, winning the ball back in good areas.
Tony DiCicco developed the 4-3-3 which allowed for more of a rhythm, April Heinrichs she was the first coach to teach them to play in different systems, with talent around the world we need to be able to change the way we play. A tactical flexibility where the players are comfortable.
GDavis: How much is about tactics and just managing players?
GRyan: Being a pro player you understand players win games. If they don’t do it, at the end of the day it is my head. I can’t control every outcome, I can influence it. I have to prepare them the best I can to help them become successful.
The reality is the reputation of this team was developed at a time where the rest of the world didn’t have the same level of talent and coaching. The expectations are still there for us to win every game 3-0. It is a national evolutionary process that the rest of the world is catching up to us on the women’s side.
GDavis: What are the challenges of the current women’s game? Is it mirroring the men’s side?
GRyan: The women’s game is getting more physical, athletic, faster, stronger, more talented and skillful. You are not going to survive with less athleticism on the backline. For instance the speed on the German front line will not be stopped with players less athletic. You look for qualities in players like combativeness. It comes down to which player goes harder sometimes.
GDavis: What did Brazil teach the world of soccer in the Gold Medal game in Greece?
GRyan: That we need to get better at everything. The game is evolving and changing. The Euro Championships have showed us that. England, Sweden, Denmark are all improving. Germany is setting the standard.
We have to do everything better. Brazil defended with high pressure for 6 games in a row. They defended hard and they were good. We have to deal with their hardness. The games is moving in an instinctive direction with winning and losing becoming less about structure and more about expression.
GDavis: How do we develop more expressive players like Brazil had that play the game instinctively?
GRyan: We don’t develop this types of players in drills. We have to give the game back to the players. Players have to play outside of a structured environment. Our top players need to be playing against better players on a regular basis. It it’s too easy we will never develop a player like Marta of Brazil. She grew up playing against guys and in the streets. Soccer at the highest level is not a coach driven sport.
GDavis: What is the future of Brandi Chastain on the Women’s National Team?
GRyan: I met with Brandi and we had a difficult conversation, I explained I would not be bringing her back in camp. I was going forward with more new defenders. I don’t see Brandi as a part of that future. Brandi is a competitor for this team, she handled it with class. The international game is so athletic and she will be 39 at the next World Cup.
GDavis: How about Briana Scurry?
GRyan: She is a fantastic goalkeeper and thank goodness she is American. She saved us many times and has asked for time away from the game. The door is open.
GDavis: And Tiffeny Milbrett?
GRyan: Tiffeny is a goalscorer and is looking fantastic in camp. My only mission is to find players that can help us in China in 2007 for the World Cup. She is a real player that will not be phased by pressure.
GDavis: With great depth up front how do you get the most out of your strikers?
GRyan: The most important thing is to attack with more variety and develop a lot more aspects. Combine through the middle, score goals with one pass with teams playing flat defensively. We have to continue to expand on breaking down teams in a variety of ways.