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Business as usual for US against Colombia

Hope Solo said there were no awkward moments this week despite pending litigation between players and US Soccer officials. (USA Today Images)

Hope Solo said there were no awkward moments this week despite pending litigation between players and US Soccer officials. (USA Today Images)

EAST HARTFORD, CT. — Hope Solo came to camp and started chatting with United States women’s national team general manager Tim Ryder. Under the circumstances no one would have been surprised if that chat turned a bit awkward. After all, U.S. Soccer has a lawsuit against the team over the state of the collective bargaining agreement. And just when the current camp got going five players filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over their pay disparity compared to the men’s team. But there were no uncomfortable moments to be found.

“I’m just completely impressed with the staff that we have,” Solo said while still thawing out following a 7-0 victory over Colombia. “It’s a staff filled with professionals who respect us as players and respect us for what we’re fighting for. Yeah, it’s a little bit strange to be in that position where we all have the same employer and yet there’s a lawsuit. But you wouldn’t be able to tell. Everyone shows up for work and they say hi, and there’s pleasantries and we work hard.”

{READ: U.S. slams Colombia on chilly night in Hartford}

The timing of the EEOC complaint could not have been more awkward coming just as camp was about to get going. Jill Ellis, the head coach who is probably as much in the middle of the two sides as anyone, sought out her two captains—Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn—and asked them if the situation needed addressing.

“They felt very comfortable that we were in a good place as did I. So no, we didn’t discuss it as a group,” Ellis said.

“It’s probably unique,” the coach said of her position. “I think I’ve been able to deal with both parties. Both parties have been incredibly professional with me. My focus is coaching this team and getting us ready for Rio.”

Other players echoed the sentiments that while there are legal battles to be fought, the main focus of the team is playing soccer and getting ready to shoot for a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

“We’re not going to waste time really thinking about all that stuff,” Carli Lloyd, who had a goal and two assists, said. “At the end of the day that stuff will work itself out however it will. We have to make sure we’re continuing to put a good result out on the field.”

Said Solo: “At the end of the day, we all want to win when it comes down to Rio. We want to win a back-to-back World Cup followed by Olympic gold. It’s never been done before (in the two-year window; the U.S. won Olympic gold in 1996 followed by the World Cup in 1999.) Having that common goal just brings us all together.”

Wednesday’s game was a particularly sharp performance by the United States who in recent years has had a tendency to play down to inferior competition. Colombia nearly played them to a stalemate in their Round of 16 match at the World Cup. But this one was all business.

“This team has always done a great job of being able to compartmentalize,” Ellis said. “I don’t think in any way, shape, or form we let anything spill over to the training ground or to the pitch tonight.”


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