U.S. women’s national team goalkeeper Hope Solo’s status for the World Cup remains unclear.
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and women’s national team coach Jill Ellis on Monday refused on multiple occasions to specify the terms of Solo’s suspension, but Gulati said that it is possible the U.S. could play with the 2015 World Cup, which starts on June 6, without its No. 1 goalkeeper.
“Sure,” Gulati said when asked. “As I’ve said and Jill has said, we’ve asked her to do a number of things. She’s going to have to do those things and make progress in those areas. Look, that’s possible. We hope that’s not the case. We hope she’s making progress and joins the team. That’s certainly the goal – hers and ours.”
Solo was handed a 30-day suspension last Wednesday after an incident that occurred during U.S. training camp outside of Los Angeles. Solo was the passenger in the car when her husband, Jerramy Stevens, was pulled over and arrested under the suspicion of driving under the influence while operating a U.S. Soccer team van. Solo also didn’t immediately tell the U.S. Soccer staff, who found out about the incident from media reports, according to a source close to the situation.
[KASSOUF on NBCSports.com: Why USSF suspended Solo this time]
Gulati said the decision to suspend Solo came following “a series of discussions” he had with Ellis and U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn. Solo only has the opportunity to be reinstated to the team following the 30-day ban. She must meet certain criteria – which Gulati would not specify beyond those being “health-related,” although he did acknowledge the role of alcohol in the incident.
“There are a number of things that Hope is being asked to do in those 30 days and we’re not going to get into the specifics of that,” he said. “We’ll evaluate where things stand at the end of that and then make a decision going forward.”
Ellis said she believes the stipulations set forth for Solo are obtainable and realistic.
“The situation warranted a consequence and we thought it was reasonable,” Ellis said. “Obviously from the perspective of two very, very big games, this is important for us to be able to focus the players that we have on these games and allow Hope some time to reflect on some things. As far as the specifics, we’re not going to get into those. Hope and I had some very good conversations and I’m optimistic about moving forward.”
Ellis and the U.S. will be without Solo for away matches on Feb. 8 against France and Feb. 13 against England. That leaves the U.S. with Ashlyn Harris, Nicole Barnhart or Alyssa Naeher in goal. Ellis said Harris is still getting back to 100 percent fitness after recovering from finger surgery.
“At this point for her, it was about closing ground,” Ellis said. “Alyssa got her first cap in Brazil. Both of them, they have a big upside. What we are going to evaluate, and what we did in the last three weeks, is performance.
“And also the physical component in where they are in fitness concerns. Ashlyn is a little bit more behind at this point because she’s been out, been injured. But Alyssa, Nicole Barnhart and Ashlyn have all done well. So I think at this point it would be based on performance coming out of this camp. In truth, I feel comfortable with either of them.”
Editor’s note: Ellis originally said Harris had a surgery on a broken hand. U.S. Soccer later clarified that Harris had finger surgery toward the end of 2014, but she is now “100 percent” fit to play.