SEATTLE — United States national team and Seattle Reign FC goalkeeper Hope Solo met with a handful of reporters on Thursday, where she answered questions about her personal life, women’s professional soccer and everything in between.
You get a chance to play in your hometown yet again. It’s kind of cool for a professional athlete to spend this much time playing in front of her hometown fans.
“I never thought it would happen, to be honest. First off, when I came to the University of Washington, I told my family I would never stay in the state of Washington. I was going to go to the East Coast and play, and then I fell in love: I played at UW and really started my career here, in the state of Washington. I had so much support, and it only seems fitting to end my career here in Washington — not that I’m retiring anytime soon, but that was my dream, was to eventually play professionally here in the city that I do love.”
Did you think there was another opportunity for a league like this to start, given the way the last major professional league ended?
“Of course, there was always the opportunity because America loves soccer, and the sport is growing. Of course, Seattle loves soccer. You can see what the men’s Seattle Sounders team (has done). As long as there is that passion and the love for the game, there’s opportunity for growth. I’m not surprised that another league has come out this quickly.”
Are you comfortable that this one might have more longevity than the previous ones?
“Absolutely. I’m more comfortable than I ever have been, and I’ve been in a lot of failed leagues, unfortunately. But this one’s different. There’s a different business plan, it’s a different business model and it has the backing of U.S. Soccer.”
Why does U.S. Soccer’s involvement really make that big of a difference?
“Well, U.S. Soccer is paying my salary. They’re paying the salaries for the best players, the national team players. So that takes a lot of weight off the shoulders of the owners, and it should create longevity for the league to survive.”
We’ve seen a similar narrative in this city with a hometown goalkeeper with the national team coming to a start-up team. How much would you like to see your time here mirror Kasey Keller’s?
“That’s funny. Yep, Kasey and I, coming back home to retire, right? As long as we get a championship while we’re at it, then I’ll be one happy camper. I want to bring the city a championship, and I want to bring notoriety to the game, and I want to give back to the city and show them the beautiful game. Most of the time, they get to see that high level of play on TV — during the World Cups, during the Olympics — and now, we’re bringing it here to the city. Of course, I played for the Seattle Sounders (Women), but this is a different level. It’s not the same. This is the best of the best players. So I think it’s going to be fun for the city to finally see.”
Kasey Keller was the leader and captain of that original Sounders MLS team. Do you want that same sort of leadership role with this team?
“I always lead, in my own way. I think the best players, that’s usually what they do. I don’t need a captain’s band to lead a team to any victory.”
You seemed so happy and grateful to the Sounders Women last year. Is it awkward at all being with Reign FC now?
“No, I’m still grateful to the Sounders. I still go to the men’s Sounders games. I’m a Sounders fan, but like I said, this is a different level. There’s no competition because it’s a different level. It’s a deep Division 2 team versus a pro team, and they’re still doing wonderful things for the sport as well.”
How about the rivalry with Portland? You want to make any first shots fired in this rivalry?
“(Laughs) That is what you’re expecting of me, right? That’s the Hope Solo you guys know and love. I’ll do what it takes to win a championship. Yes, Portland, they have quite a roster, but Bill (Predmore, Reign FC owner) and I were just talking, and it’s never what you think on paper. It never usually comes to fruition during the season, so we’ll have to wait and see.”
What kind of effect do you think it has that this team isn’t linked with the Sounders brand?
“Like I said, it’s a Division 2 team versus a professional team, and we’re all in it together to build the game here in the city. There shouldn’t be effects. You’re going to get your maybe right-out-of-college players playing for the Sounders, maybe trying to get more experience at a higher level before they can maybe filter over to the Reign. So it could be looked at as a really positive thing, if you decide to look at it that way.”
So you don’t think that Sounders fans are really going to latch onto the team with that familiar brand and ignore the new team?
“Well, to be quite honest, I think most of the fans watch the men’s games. I think we had a great season (in 2012), getting 5,000 people to the games for the women’s Sounders, but unfortunately, I think many of those fans were there to see some of the high-caliber players that were in town — Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan. So there shouldn’t be a competition for fans, but ultimately, I think the city wants to see the best of the best.”
Any thoughts on playing with Megan Rapinoe again here?
“She’s one of my favorite players. I’m happy she loves the city. I love to share the city with my national team teammates. But she’s a special player. She’s just so talented and exciting to watch, and she brings flair and just excitement to the game that not a lot of players do. I think another player who can bring that flair is a player like Tobin Heath, but to have a player as exciting as Megan Rapinoe on the team, it’s just going to fill the stands with more fans.”
In terms of the benefit to the national team, was it better to have more players clustered on one team like last year with the Sounders Women?
“No, I think we train so much together as a national team, especially when we’re gearing up for an Olympics or for the World Cup. I mean, it was great, but we didn’t need that to be successful in London.”
You mentioned high-profile players, you being one of them. How do you accept the obligations with the new league to put yourself out there maybe in situations like this, to kind of do your part in that regard?
“Well, we all have an obligation to build the game and to eventually get to a point where we can sustain ourselves and get great paychecks and kind of be up there like the WNBA. But it starts somewhere, and I think I have to be realistic with myself. There’s going to be lots of bumps along the way. We’ve already had failed leagues left and right, and I’ve been a part of every single one. So I put myself out here today because I want to do the right thing. I want to build the game, and there is a place for it here in America. There is a place for a women’s pro league. In my heart, I feel like this is a league that is going to work, but we have to start small and build, which is hard for players like myself with experience, who maybe are a little bit older, who have high expectations. I strive for a high level of professionalism, so good thing Bill is with me on that, and we have a good owner who is shooting for the sky as well.”
With a couple of those high-profile players going overseas before the season starts, is that going to be detrimental in any way?
“Similar to what happens on the men’s side, right? And I don’t think anyone thinks it’s negative when it happens on the men’s side. You see Landon (Donovan) going overseas, getting some experience, coming back a little bit late for his season. (David) Beckham did it. I mean, they’re playing year-round, and they’re playing in quality leagues, and they’re getting good experience. So I think nothing but positive when I think of them going overseas and coming back.”
Sticking with the Europe theme a little bit, this club has a foreign coach in Laura Harvey. How is that going to be different from playing for an American coach?
“I wish I could tell you. I haven’t even met our coach yet. I don’t even know anything about her style of play, but that’s what keeps me excited, even with the national team coach, with Tom Sermanni. I’ve met him, but I haven’t seen his style, I haven’t seen how he puts on training sessions. All of that inspires me because I want to go out there and prove to the coach ‘this is what I’m about. I work hard. I’ll be the best goalkeeper.’ But I know nothing about her, and I hope to meet her soon.”
How fulfilling have the last few months been for you, professionally and personally?
“It’s been a crazy year, as always — story of my life — but it’s been a great year. Obviously, with the Olympics, after losing the World Cup, coming back and winning gold against Japan was incredible. I’m still waiting for that World Cup trophy, so I’m going to go after it and go hard for another three or four years. Personally, that’s part of life. There’s a lot of ups and downs. Right now, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my personal life. I’m happily married. There’s lots of ups and downs, but that’s what makes us strong is getting through them all.”
You’ve never shied away from the court of public opinion. What would you say to everybody out there who wonder how you’re doing?
“Oh, I don’t really care what they think. I’m doing perfectly fine, and I’m happy. At the end of the day, it’s the people closest to me that matter.”
Does it ever get any easier, knowing your personal life is in the spotlight as much as it is?
“Well, my personal life is in the spotlight, but people say what they want to say. The truth isn’t in the spotlight, I should say. I’m in the spotlight, but not the truth. That’s hard to accept, but that is, unfortunately, kind of how the world is and how media is.”
What is your reaction to the way media portrays things at certain times?
“Like I said, that’s kind of how the world works, whether it’s in Hollywood, whether it’s with sports figures, whether it’s the president. That’s kind of how it works, and I’m realistic, and I understand that. That’s why it’s important to me to know who I am, to know that I’m living my life the way I want to live, and that I am happy. At the end of the day, I can’t really let myself get too angry about outside opinions that are or aren’t true.”
Does living in Seattle make that an added challenge because both you and Jerramy Stevens are known in the community?
“We’re known in the community for doing good things. We do many local events, many charities, so I think we should be just fine.”
Does his history as a professional athlete make it easier to be married to a professional athlete?
“Absolutely. That’s a great question. Thank you. He knows the struggles, the daily grind, the mentality that it takes to be on top. Yeah, he gets it.”
How crazy is your schedule as far as travel and working out, and does it slow down at all now that the league is starting up?
“Well, I think once the season starts, it will slow down for me because I’ll be in Seattle weekly, training day in and day out. So I guess it’s going to be kind of an off year for me, even though I’m in the middle of a season.”
With a new coach coming into the national team, it’s always an interesting transition period. Do you have any idea how much longer you want to be involved?
“As I just said, I’m for sure going for another World Cup trophy — or a World Cup trophy — so another World Cup. So that’s another three years from now. Maybe I’ll stick around for another Olympics. But three or four more years.”
Is that professionally also, or just with the national team?
“I’m just speaking for the national team. I guess I could play until I’m 50 here in Seattle, pull a Kasey Keller. (Laughs) Sorry, Kasey. You won’t see me wearing pants, though, as a goalkeeper.”
Is Jerramy a soccer fan, or are you teaching him the game?
“Jerramy became a fan many years ago, before we got together. He started watching all the EPL games. He’s got a good eye.”
Do you have a favorite EPL team?
Is that Bill’s favorite team?
Predmore: “No, I’m a Chelsea fan. So we’re going to have a conflict from the start here.”
Solo: “So, home opener is when?”
Predmore: “I don’t know. The schedule is still being worked out. We’re being told sometime in February, it will be published. But again, the dates move around a bit, as I’m sure you’ve seen thus far. But I think Feb. 14 will be the day. Where and against who remains to be seen.”
Solo: “I say we open against Portland. What do you think?”
Predmore: “I’d love that.”
Media: Bill, what kind of vibe are you getting now that season ticket sales have started?
Predmore: “It’s good. It’s hard to have anything to compare it to. We’ve been selling tickets for three and half hours or something like that now, but it’s been nice watching things happen in real time. Again, we’re not taking it for granted, but I think based on the players we’ve got on the team, the coach we (hired) and our ambitions, we are hopeful anyways that we’re going to have a full stadium.”
Any word on other coaching hires?
“Honestly, that’s Laura’s department. I think she’s got a broad range of options. She’s got people she’s talking to, but honestly, I don’t know how close we are on that. It could be tomorrow or it could be three weeks from now. Obviously, it’s got to happen reasonably quick. She’ll be in the States on a permanent basis Feb. 20, I believe, so camp would start about the second week of March. Obviously, we want to be staffed up, at least in that department, no later than that.”
Do you have a sense if it’s going to be mostly American coaches, or will she be bringing coaches with her from the UK?
“Totally up to her, and I think it’s about the best fit for her. It may be somebody that lives in Seattle. It may be somebody that lives in Russia. I don’t know. As long as she’s happy with them … whoever she picks is fine with me.”
Solo: “As long as we’re winning.”
Predmore: “Yeah. At the end of the day, whoever she thinks is going to make the team better, that’s who we want.”
Hope, we’ve talked a little bit about the end of your playing career. Do you see a coach in yourself?
Solo: “You know what, I’m not quite sure what direction my life will take (after) my playing career. There are some opportunities out there. Maybe some things on air and broadcasting and things of the like, but I don’t think I want to (coach). I’ll coach defense, and I’ll coach goalkeepers, but I don’t want to be a head coach by any means. But I love studying defense and watching film, and I think that would be my gig.”
“Soccer analyst. Hmm…”
When do you report to national team camp?
“Our first camp with Tom Sermanni is Feb. 2, so I had a good six-week break away from the game. First time I’ve had this long of a break since high school, probably.”
Where did you go?
“I didn’t do anything. Jerramy and I went back and forth, spent some time in Florida, got some sun, did a lot of fishing and we’re building a dog run because we just got two puppies. So building a dog run in Seattle, it’s been a lot of work in the rain.”
What kind of dogs?
“We haven’t got them yet. We get them in three weeks. We’ve purchased them, but they’re five weeks old right now, so we get them when they turn eight weeks. I don’t want to tell you guys what kind of dogs. No, not pit bulls.”
“You would think. I can’t tell you guys. It’s all over Twitter right now. People are guessing what kind of puppies we’re getting. Follow me on Twitter.”
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