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women's world cup

I haven't written about the Women's World Cup, which has now reached the semi-finals. My reasons are probably lame, but here goes. I'm a longtime supporter of women's sports, and think in some cases, most notably tennis, the women's game is preferable to the men's. I had the pleasure of watching Mia Hamm and her teammates play on several occasions, and they are as good as advertised.

Having said that, I don't always find myself interested in women's soccer matches. The skill at this highest level is top-notch, but the play is slower, which I don't notice if all I'm watching is women's soccer, but which becomes obvious the minute I watch a men's match. And there are so many options for soccer viewers in the U.S. nowadays, that women's matches are always up against half a dozen other contests.

It's like with MLS ... when the Earthquakes exist, I follow the league and the Quakes are my favorite and I attend as many matches as I can, because they're "my" team, and that trumps all else (I am, for instance, a Giants fan first and a baseball fan second). But with the absence of the Quakes from MLS the last couple of seasons, I've barely watched a match. The quality of MLS matches is OK, certainly better than it was ten years ago, but they are nonetheless not up to the level of the other stuff I can watch. Given a choice between Liverpool, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Werder Bremen, Boca Juniors, Chivas of Guadalajara, and the Houston Dynamo, I'm going to be watching six other matches before I get around to MLS. Today, for example, I could watch matches from Italy, Spain, or Germany, I could watch an international club match featuring Chivas, and I could watch the Germany-Norway WWC semi-final match. The truth is, I'll probably watch the Italian match and record the Chivas match.

The point is, I'm not particularly knowledgable about the women's game, so I have little of interest to say. But I will be watching the USA take on Brazil tomorrow morning in the semi-finals, and I look forward to an entertaining contest.

All of which is a long-winded way to get to the following rather astonishing news. The USA women haven't lost a match in a bazillion years, and have only lost once to Brazil, ever. Team goalkeeper Hope Solo has been the #1 for three years now, and has been in the nets for the entire Cup so far, which includes shutouts in the last three matches.

Coach Greg Ryan has decided to start someone else in goal against Brazil.

I'm not sure it matters who he has chosen (it's veteran Briana Scurry, one of the finest keepers in U.S. history, who has done well against Brazil in the past). It's the idea: changing keepers for strategic reasons in the semi-finals of the World Cup. If you follow any sports at all, you can picture similar possibilities ... going with the backup QB in the NFL playoffs, benching your star center in the Final Four, leaving the fastest runner off the Olympic team. Solo is not the team's best player, Scurry is no slouch, as many have noted this match will be won in midfield, not in goal ... all may be true. But this is a remarkable move by Coach Ryan, one that leaves him pretty much out on the proverbial limb. We'll know tomorrow whether Ryan is Connie Mack with Howard Ehmke, or Dusty Baker with Salomon Torres.

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