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Disappointed Scurry plays on

Rather than pout at being left off Olympic roster, she makes sure she is ready if called.

June 25, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Briana Scurry has been playing soccer long enough to know that anything can happen.

So rather than vent her anger at being left off the U.S. roster for the Beijing Olympics, the veteran goalkeeper is going to China as an alternate, staying in peak condition and making sure she is ready if called upon.

"I'm definitely disappointed," Scurry said of not making the final squad of 18. "I feel I came into this year and worked really hard and was in some of the best shape I've been in. I competed from the first day."

But Coach Pia Sundhage opted to make Hope Solo her starter and Nicole Barnhart the backup. It was a choice that surprised Scurry, who has played a record 170 games in 14 years on the national team and has two gold medals and one silver medal from the previous three Olympic tournaments.

The team managed only third place in the 2007 Women's World Cup, however, as Scurry and Solo shared playing time -- reluctantly. Afterward, Greg Ryan was fired as coach and Sundhage was brought in to refocus and recharge the players.

"We were told it would be a clean slate for everybody," Scurry said. "I've played in only one game. I don't know if that looks like an opportunity to anybody, but it didn't feel like one to me."

Limited playing time did give her a clue about what was ahead.

"I would be blind if I didn't see the writing on the wall," she said. "I'm enthusiastic and I'm an optimistic person, but I'm not naive."

With Solo or Barnhart in the nets, the U.S. won the Four Nations Tournament in China in January, the Algarve Cup in Portugal in March, the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Mexico in April and the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea this month. Solo has played in 12 games in 2008. Barnhart has appeared in five and Scurry in two.

Sundhage's explanation when she named the team on Monday was that Solo and Barnhart were better with their feet than Scurry, who is better known as a shot stopper.

Scurry did not argue the point.

"Over the history of the other keepers on the team, there's been not a single time when the keeper behind me wasn't better with her feet than me," she said. "They kick a ball farther and whatever, but that's only one aspect of so many that involve goalkeeping.

"They [Solo and Barnhart] probably both kick the ball five or 10 yards farther than me, I guess. It's a slightly different style of play, but the style I've done has obviously worked.

"At the end of the day, in all the major world championships for men and women, it does end up being about shot stopping."

Scurry is 36, a decade older than Solo, who turns 26 a week before the Beijing Games, and Barnhart. She did not feel that age played a factor in the decision.

"It sure as heck didn't in training," she said. "I was the healthiest one of the three all year and brought it to training every day. I feel like I worked and I was one of the fittest ones. Hope and I were the fittest of the goalkeepers every time we ran any kind of fitness training test or anything like that.

"So I don't think age played a factor. If it did, you would have thought it would have been in my favor" because of experience.

Despite the blow to her pride, Scurry's optimism remains intact.

"As far as my understanding is, I'll be going over to China with the team for the month," she said. "I think I'm the only one [of the four alternates] who does that.

"I will be ready. I would be ready regardless, because that's just how I've always done it. You never know what could happen."

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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