XI WoSo Moments of 2016: Solo makes history, then gets fired

Jeff Kassouf December 29, 2016 19
Hope Solo has been suspended six months by U.S. Soccer for her comments after losing to Sweden at the Olympics.

Hope Solo was suspended six months by U.S. Soccer and had her contract terminated for her comments after losing to Sweden at the Olympics.

There is nothing simple about Hope Solo’s legacy. She is one of the United States women’s national team’s best players in history, and she is also its most infamous – the latter title not always fair but, indeed, earned.

This summer, that paradox was on display again, to an extreme, in just a matter of weeks. And in this case, it hardly felt like “fair” was a word for it.

Solo hit the century mark – 100 shutouts – with the U.S.’ clean-sheet victory over South Africa on July 9. She would earn two more over the next month, both at the Olympics. That tournament ended abruptly for the Americans, and it brought a mixed bag of performances from Solo, from spectacular against France to terrible against Colombia.

Soon, none of that mattered.

A bunch of cowards,” were the words Solo used on August 12 in the wake of defeat. She was describing Sweden’s defensive, counter-attacking mentality in sending the U.S. women home at the quarterfinal stage for the first time ever in a major tournament. Sweden prevailed on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes.

The words were met with a truly bizarre level of domestic and international outrage, with social media platforms adding gasoline to the fire in tweet-sized snippets.

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Solo was accused of poor sportsmanship in Brazil, Sweden and at home even by her federation’s own president, Sunil Gulati. Two weeks later, on August 24, U.S. coach Jill Ellis and USSF CEO Dan Flynn flew to Seattle to tell the goalkeeper that her international career was (ostensibly) over. She was suspended for six months and her national-team contract was terminated.

U.S. Soccer cited an accumulation of grievances on Solo’s part, but that rang hollow to many. The federation had stood by Solo’s right to due process when she was accused of domestic violence (a case still not closed) and it suspended her for 30 days in 2015 after she was the passenger in a team van that her husband, Jerramy Stevens, drove drunk during U.S. training camp.

Solo’s contract termination – a firing, in layman’s terms – was a story which took on a life of its own in the wake of Olympic failure. Would it have mattered so much if any other member of the team had uttered those same words? It’s doubtful.

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But Solo’s declaration that the Swedish tactics (deployed by the coach, Pia Sundhage, who revived Solo’s internationalcareer) and the federation’s subsequent reaction became a defining story in 2016 for the U.S. women’s national team, the sport and even the Olympics from a U.S. perspective. More people are likely to recall the details of the Ryan Lochte and Hope Solo sagas than they are most actual competitive performances.

What is next for Solo remains unclear. She has kept a relatively low profile since the contract termination. She had shoulder surgery after deciding she would not continue playing the final weeks of the NWSL season with Seattle Reign FC. In her few public appearances since, she has suggested that playing in Europe is an option. It doesn’t seem that we have seen the last of active goalkeeper Hope Solo, but we may have seen the last of United States national team-member Hope Solo.

Solo’s current – and, potentially final – international stats see her posting 102 clean sheets in 202 career matches for the United States, an astounding number unlikely to be matched by anyone in the near future. No other goalkeeper has ever accumulated 100 career international shutouts. Ashlyn Harris, who sat behind Solo for the better part of the past decade, is the most experienced goalkeeper earning regular U.S. call-ups. She has 11 career international caps.

The legacy of Hope Solo is a complicated one. Missteps off the field can’t be presented without unparalleled performances on the field and vice versa. History will show 2016 as one of those years we remember Solo for what went on away from the field, but the federation has a big role in that, too. As usual, it’s complicated.

  • Steglitz49

    100 shutouts — against which sort of opposition?

    • Steglitz49

      All I can find is that — “The U.S. women’s national team recorded 91 wins and nine draws as part of the 34-year-old Solo’s 100 shutouts. Forty-five of her shutouts came in the U.S. and the other 55 abroad” — but I can find no info about who of those were in the top 12 ranks.

      • Ron Rocha

        And if you did get that data what an who could you judge it against?

        • Steglitz49

          Gordon Banks played 73 matches for England as did Rio-Kalle for Sweden and Lev Yashin 74 for the USSR but not all were shut-outs.

          Hope’s fame is based on games that mattered. A bit like Alex and Carli. You could say the same for Hedvig Lindahl and Ayumi Kaihori.

    • Gary Diver

      I agree that Hope’s 100 shutouts is not as impressive as it seems (based on poor competition and playing so many matches in the US), but it is still impressive. How many national GK have tallied 50 shutouts?

      • Steglitz49

        There are not enough tomato-cans to go around.

        Hope does not need her 100 shut-outs. Her fame rests on big plays in big matches — like Carli’s and Alex’s.

      • Hugo

        Regardless of how many shutouts she has, she was (is she still?) a sensentional goalie. The best ever (so far).

        Those shutouts are stupid statistics and doesn’t mean a lot. Who is the better keeper? The one who gets no shot on goal during a game or the won who saves 2-3 “unsaveables” in a 2-1 victory?

        The US seams to be keen on all those kind of statistics. Sometimes I think that those statistics are not helpful for the development of the team. Sometimes it seems that certain opponents are only selected or certain players are only playing to reach some statistical milestone.

        But those statistics might be important in the US to sell the game. My take is just from the other side of the ocean (Germany). So I may not get the full importance of those statistical figures.

  • rkmid71

    Why all the EQ articles about Solo? I think most people don’t care that much and have moved on. She’s not part of the future.

    • Steglitz49

      Alex Morgan took the French Euro. Who else is there to write about?

      • rkmid71

        Lloyd and JE at the FIFA awards on Jan 9? Waiting with bated breath the election of a new POTY and COTY, with all eyes fixed on the tiny chimney perched on the roof of the FIFA headquarters.

        • Steglitz49

          The votes have already been cast. These are the 3 with most votes.

          Allowing the fans to vote means that players from smaller countries will forever be excluded. If there is a serious risk that they might get votes, they simply do not include them in the list to be voted on like Ada Hegerberg and Hedvig Lindahl.

      • frosty

        PSG signed Ashley Lawrence

        • Steglitz49

          Sensible man that Lair. Ashley made a huge contribution to Canada and her college teams. A fine choice.

  • Steglitz49

    Stina Blackstenius is leaving Linköping. That much has now been confirmed. Her next club has not been announced but is rumored to be Montpellier.

    A number of Swedish players have been happy in Montpellier, such as Josefin Öqvist, Sofia Jakobsson and Linda Sembrant.

    • rkmid71

      Did you see UConn women b-ball just won 87th game in a row. Beat #4 Maryland on the road last night 87-81. Sellout at 17,950 fans. I’ll be interested to see stats for total viewers on ESPN. Great game. All-time record is 90 set also by UConn women and UCLA men are 2nd with 88.

      • Steglitz49

        No but I will wear my Huskies cap with pride.

        Also goes to show that you can get good attendances for ladies sports in the right locations. The great unwashed will support “their girls”.

  • guest

    Hope Solo will never go away. She is still all over the USWNT headlines even after being fired. She is doing everything she can to come back to the national team. I would put money on it.

  • FlyingSquirrel42

    2007
    HOPE: I’m better than our other goalkeeper, but our coach is a dumbass and lost us the game by benching me.
    USSF: Well now that wasn’t very nice! So…um…go sit in the corner for a bit while we fire the coach for being a dumbass.

    2012
    HOPE: Isn’t the middle of the Olympics a perfect time to say that a WoSo icon really sucks as a commentator?
    USSF: Not really, but whatever.

    2014
    HOPE: Um…so I got arrested, but the charges are false.
    USSF: OK, you’re innocent until proven guilty.

    2015
    HOPE: Yes, it was the team van, and yes, my husband was drunk, but hey, it’s not like *I* was the one driving under the influence!
    USSF: Okay, well…you’re suspended for a bit, but you’re still our #1 for the WWC.

    2016
    HOPE: Sweden beat us, but I don’t really respect their strategy.
    USSF: What?! YOU’RE FIRED!!!

    • Gary Diver

      WoSo has its own logic which is different than logic taught in universities. Again and again, things don’t make sense on their own and people need to create a “backstory” to make sense of what has happening.

      In the case of Hope Solo, something else “off-stage” caused the “firing”. Maybe Ellis had an issue with her, maybe Gulati told Ellis that Solo had to go, or maybe Solo said something in the locker room after the Swedish QF against another player or Ellis. We may never know (like we may never know what Ellis was thinking when she sent Morgan to kick the first PK during the QF shootout), but it is not logical that the word “coward” caused Solo to be tossed overboard after serving USWNT so well for over a decade. (The word “coward” didn’t bother Sundhage at all and, in fact, she strangely seemed to embraced the word. Also, if the word coward was strike three with Ellis and/or Gulati, why wasn’t Solo fired immediately. Nobody commenting on Equalizer immediately called for Solo’s firing when she said it and when Solo was fired everybody here had forgotten about the comment and had moved on. Timing tells us something else was going on and unfortunately we may never find out.)