Tony DiCicco coached the USA to crowns at the 1996 Olympics, 1999 Women's World Cup and 2008 U-20 World Cup. He’ll be serving as an analyst for Fox Sports during the 2015 Women's World Cup and for ESPN2 for the USA friendly at France Feb. 8.
SOCCER AMERICA: There were games when the USA won its last two Olympic tournaments that if you switched the teams’ goalkeepers, I think the USA would have lost. What do you think about the Hope Solo situation?
TONY DICICCO: It’s a difficult situation on a number of levels. Not since Briana Scurry in the 2007 bronze-medal game has a goalkeeper played a minute in goal other than Hope Solo in any Olympic or World Cup game.
That’s a lot of experience there. … No matter who might replace her, you’re putting in a goalkeeper who has no experience at that level.
Then, where is Hope in her game? She’s the best goalkeeper in the world. But Hope’s lifestyle – in my opinion, I’m not the closest person to the players -- lends it to her skills dropping off quickly. How quickly, no one knows.
She gave up a soft goal when Brazil beat them 3-2 [in December].
Now you have to look at the impact on the team. Is she becoming too disruptive? On my 2008 U-20 team, I left out a player for being disruptive to what I was trying to do to build culture in the team. I told her, “I love what we do on field but I don’t think we can win with you on the team."
I think Hope has one more chance. I think the team is willing to give her one more chance.
She wants desperately to win the World Cup. She knows that that’s a crowning accomplishment for her career.
But I think she’s used up all her bonus points with the team. I think when she comes back she’s got to be a model teammate and a model citizen. And if she isn’t, and she has another setback, I’m not sure the team is going to support her and I’m not sure the staff is going to support her.
SA: This will be your fourth Women’s World Cup as a TV analyst ...
TONY DICICCO: It’s the concession of not getting a coaching position [laughs] … but I do enjoy it. You’re part of the event and you stay in tune with the team.
I try to analyze the game from a coach’s standpoint. I feel I capture that aspect more than most analysts in that most are former players.
SA: Have you wanted to coach the USA again?
TONY DICICCO: Yes. Not to take anything away from the people who got the position, I thought I was best option when Tom Sermanni was hired. I thought I was again the best option for the changes that needed to be made [when he was let go]. I think Jill Ellis has done a good job. She made a number of the changes I would have made. Not all of them, but a number of them.
I think she has a great soccer pedigree. So does Tom Sermanni. I knew that from coaching against him. But I still think he came in not quite in tune with where the team was.
SA: What changes do you think were needed?
TONY DICICCO: There had to be changes in defense. We gave up seven goals in the last four games of the 2011 World Cup. In the history of men’s and women’s World Cups, teams that win don’t give up a lot of goals, especially in the later games. They may have some tweaking to do after the early games, but they usually get it right.
I learned a lot from Pia [Sundhage], especially in player management by observing her and talking to her. But I don’t think she ever got the defense right and we haven’t had it right for quite a few years.
Pia did a wonderful job, but we haven’t got it right. We should be better in defense.
SA: How do you improve the defense?
TONY DICICCO: What I said in one of my interviews was: Who’s our best defender over the last six, eight years? Christie Rampone. I found Christie Rampone in a Monmouth College-Central Connecticut State game in 1997. How come we haven’t found another Christie Rampone?
That doesn’t mean there are a million out there. She’s special. But there are some out there.
We take a player who might be a little bit better today but has a ceiling instead of looking another way. You can’t do this two months out from a competition, but you could have done it when Tom Sermanni took over. There were two or three players who made a lot of mistakes but who eventually would have made our defense special again.
SA: Have you been offered jobs from foreign national teams?
TONY DICICCO: Yes. But a foreign position would have to be really attractive because I love coaching for our country.
SA: Looking at the 2015 World Cup field, it seems the fact that Brazil is finally taking its preparations seriously would make it a strong favorite?
TONY DICICCO: What they’re doing well this time is they’re getting games, and against World Cup competition. In the last World Cups, they haven’t had a lot of pre-World Cup training. They haven’t had enough good games.
But they still have some fatal flaws. I don’t think they’re ever good enough in goal. They’re not always fit enough and kind of run out of steam, especially when they play the U.S. The USA is going to be the fittest team in the competition. Canada found that out at the 2012 Olympics. Brazil found it out in the 2011 World Cup. You can’t lose a step against the U.S.
I think Brazil will go deep in the tournament. I don’t think they’ll win it. I think it’s between the USA and Germany, and maybe Japan. Japan is going to have bring more quality -- not in their style of play, but in the level of their athletes – to win.
(Tony DiCicco served as an assistant to Anson Dorrance when the USA won the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991 and as goalkeeper coach of the U.S. men’s team at the 1993 U-20 World Cup. He became women’s national team head coach in 1994 and during his tenure guided the USA to gold at the first women’s Olympic tournament in 1996 and to the 1999 World Cup title. He coached the USA to the 2008 U-20 Women’s Cup title and served as head coach of WPS’s Boston Breakers in 2009-2011. He was commissioner of the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) in 2000-2003. DiCicco is the Founder and Technical Director of SoccerPlus Goalkeeper School and SoccerPlus FieldPlayer Academy.)