Monday, October 1, 2007

Solo benched in favor of Scurry

In another shocking story of soccer's wheeling and dealing dynamo from the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association, Taya Talent supplanted starting keeper Hope Solo, just days after she signed with the COED league's lovable losers, with newly acquired veteran Briana Scury.

"I'm just happy to be able to show my skills for one more shot at the Pacific region's most coveted COED title," said Scurry.

When asked why Taya Talent would sign another high profile keeper to its roster, player-coach Brad Ruszala said that he saw a little something in Scurry's game that could give them an advantage against Dale "Dread Pirate" Roberts and the Fiesta Pirates.

Scurry, 36, started every game but one at the 1995, 1999 and 2003 World Cups and played every minute at the Athens Olympics, where the team won gold. She also experienced success touring the most competitive COED leagues throughout the Pacific.

"We talked a long time ago with Bri about match-ups against certain teams in the NMIFA COED League and one of them was the Fiesta Pirates," he said. "The Pirates play off the dribble and in the penalty box, making the goalkeeper make quick responses to their moves. I think Bri is one of the fastest in the world," said Ruszala.

Player-coach Angelo Villagomez cited Scurry's history when dealing with the competition as the main reason for opting for the cagey veteran in next year's showodwn.

"She knew that there would be certain games that she could play. Bri has beaten the Pirates the last two times they've played and has tremendous confidence against the Fiesta club."

Scurry has never lost to the Fiesta Pirates, and Solo has never faced the team.

Scurry and Solo practiced together in the goal area after Ruszala's press conference but said little as they shagged balls 30 yards away from their teammates.

Scurry said later she and Solo had not discussed the change and had only exchanged small talk at practice.

"I think some might find it to be unusual, but I'm getting my opportunity now and I'm not really concerned about what has happened in the past," she said. "I've been playing incredibly well, kept myself in shape, kept myself on my toes and sharp. So he just decided it was going to be me."

A clearly upset Solo said she and Ruszala hadn't talked about the change in the run-up to the NMIFA COED League, but when she was called in to talk with him Tuesday night, she sensed something was up.

"The moment I got tapped on the shoulder, saying, 'I need to meet with you,' I had a pit in my stomach, and I knew what it was," she said, her eyes brimming with tears. "I was very taken aback, but that's the nature of sports and it happens."

Veteran defender David Khorram said, "Whether it's Hope or Bri or (third goalkeeper) Peter (Bonser) won't affect the rest of the team. At this level the differences between players is really small, and you just look at what strengths you have at a given time."

But former Taya Talent team co-captain Chris Nelson said the move brought out strong emotions from the team too close to a big game.

"I think Bri will be fine, and the move will be fine," said Nelson, who won two world championships and two Olympic gold medals with the CNMI National team and is a soccer analyst for KSPN.

"But I just think it becomes a distraction when you're too focused on that rather than the game. To me it's a sign of worrying too much about the opponent. You just play. You know they're good. You know their strengths and weaknesses, but you don't have to make such a drastic change.

"For men it might not be that way because they can separate things, but women have strong relationships with their teammates and that has to be considered, too. Maybe it's a case of over-thinking things, but if (Ruszala) pulls it off it's hailed as a great move."

Ruszala was adamant that he had no qualms about making the controversial decision at this point in the NMIFA COED League. "If it turns out to be a mistake," he said, "I can live with that."

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