That brings me to goalkeepers. They are a different breed, most of them lone rangers, wearing bizarre costumes and sporadically called upon to save the day. Hours of tedium, moments of terror, as somebody said about pilots.
A few great keepers are phlegmatic, like Dino Zoff of Italy, but many more are expressive lunatics, like Gigi Buffon, also of the Azzurri. They scream at their teammates. They disrupt the opposition.
The United States goes into the final of the Women’s World Cup against Japan on Sunday relying on Hope Solo, not to be confused with Han Solo, although maybe yes. Some people think she should not be representing her country because of allegations of a family brawl, but I don’t think her case is comparable to the Ray Rice affair.
Solo will be in goal on Sunday, perhaps to replicate the brash tactics by Briana Scurry that helped win the WWC in 1999. Scurry had the gall to leave the line and intimidate a Chinese player during the shootout that would decide the championship. She took the chance of being shown a yellow card and earning a do-over for the shooter.
Was it cheating? Was it gamesmanship? I say the ref went for it, and that is part of any sport – the slide step by a pitcher on a pickoff, the head fake on the line of scrimmage that induces an offsides call, the dive in basketball. Any way you look at it, Briana Scurry is a great keeper who helped win a World Cup.
Hope Solo also commandeered the goal zone in Tuesday’s semifinal, after Germany had been awarded a penalty kick. Solo went into her disruptive mode, wandering around, fussing with her water bottle, wasting seconds, icing the German kicker.
By the time Solo decided she was good and ready, the German player was licking her dry lips and turning her head for assurance from the sideline. She emitted a weak shot that skittered a foot wide to her left. Disaster. The U.S. went on to win the match.
Intimidation is part of the sport, but it has its limits. I thought Tim Krul of the Netherlands was way over the line with his pro wrestling behavior against Colombia in the 2014 World Cup. He should have been red-carded for gesturing at the opponents, but maybe guys get away with more. I had no problem with Scurry’s quick start in 1999 or Solo’s need to hydrate for 90 seconds in 2015.
Every team needs an audacious keeper who could make a difference in a final.