Megan Rapinoe has been one of the United States' top players at the Women's World Cup, and the team won't have her in their quarterfinal against China. She picked up her second yellow card of the tournament and will be suspended for the match.
Head coach Jill Ellis has a couple of candidates to replace her in the lineup, and they have teammates lobbying for them publicly.
Ellis said Morgan Brian would likely replace Lauren Holiday. Rapinoe told us Christen Press would be a good fit to play in her place vs #CHN— Jenny Taft (@JennyTaft) June 23, 2015
Carli Lloyd specifically named Heather O'Reilly as a candidate to replace Megan Rapinoe. Will it happen? Well...— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) June 24, 2015
This is pretty atypical, especially during a big tournament. Players don't come out and state their starting lineup preferences very often. And in light of reports that morale is down and Ellis has lost the confidence of a good chunk of the roster, it's a bit worrying that veteran players would be so outspoken about lineup choices.
Were Rapinoe and Lloyd's comments a sign that Ellis has lost control of the team? According to former USWNT stars Julie Foudy (an analyst at espnW) and Cat Whitehill (currently a commentator at FOX) probably not, but they do think players need to choose their words more carefully.
"They haven't been in control while talking to the media during this tournament," said Foudy. "It's been strange to see some of the quotes coming out. You're not the coach, stop giving lineup advice. U.S. Soccer is not going to look favorably on that."
"I'd get a confidence boost," said Foudy when I asked her how she'd feel if a teammate was publicly calling for her to play, "but I'd be saying 'please don't say do that in public.' It could have the other effect."
Whitehill agreed that this isn't evidence of a dressing room revolt, saying "when I heard it, I didn't think anything of it. I don't think there's any dissent." She also echoed what Foudy said about how it would feel to have a teammate advocate for her to start in public.
"It just gives [Heather O'Reilly and Christen Press] a boost of confidence, I don't think there's any issue. Jill is going to choose and they're going to move on, go forward. They're not going to think twice about it."
Whitehill also offered up a reasonable explanation for Rapinoe's outspokenness.
"If I were [Rapinoe], I'd be frustrated after getting that second yellow, it's hard to answer that question right away after the game."
But Whitehill admitted that she couldn't recall a time in her career when players publicly lobbied for certain lineup decisions to be made. "I don't think I've ever been in this situation," said Whitehill, but she recalled an example of a time when a player spoke to her in private in a similar spot.
"I got an opportunity when Brandi Chastain broke her foot in 2003. No one said anything publicly, but Brandi came up to me and gave me a vote of confidence."
Ultimately, that's how it should be.