The Trials of Hope Solo

I am still trying figure out what was wrong with what Hope Solo said about how Sweden played in the Rio Olympics soccer quarterfinals.

No, let me back up. I was shocked when I read what she had said. Then, I chucked it to Hope being true to herself. Her team lost a frustrating match. She said what her more tactful teammates felt but wouldn’t say.

Sweden, now coached by former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage, decided to ‘park the bus,’ as the saying goes, essentially playing with as many players behind the ball as it could and only making counterattacking forays. It’s a legitimate tactic to deploy against a team with superior talent but it does not make for scintillating soccer.

Solo called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards.”

Hope Solo answers questions after the USWNT against Canada on 9/22/11 from Chris Singer on Vimeo.

Calling your opponent “cowards” at the end of gut-wrenching loss was, at the very least, ugly, classless and unsportsmanlike. It is also one of the more benign things you could call an opponent in any competition, especially in the cesspool that is the world Olympics movement. Don’t forget this is the same Olympics that featured Ryan Lochte and Justin Gatlin, drugged-up athletes from at least Russia, the same Olympics where an official was arrested for scalping tickets.

The games themselves, all of it, were a disgrace, purchased as they were by scarce resources that should have gone to taking care of Brazil’s much impoverished population.

But, imagine it was not Hope Solo who said those words, that it was one of her teammates who don’t have her baggage. Better yet, imagine a male competitor in any sport. Would everyone be coming down on the said athlete like the ton of bricks that is being visited on Ms. Solo?

Are Solo’s words sufficient enough a reason for US Soccer to decide to terminate her career?

“The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden during the 2016 Olympics were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our national team players,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a press release. “Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.”

No wonder he put that statement out in a press release because there is no way Gulati could have said that in person with a straight face. Gulati is a coward for hiding behind those bullshit words.

Uncompromising Hope Solo seem incapable of letting any slight go by, repeatedly challenging many of the revered former members of the USWNT.
Uncompromising Hope Solo seem incapable of letting any slight go by, repeatedly challenging many of the revered former members of the USWNT.

I would have respected him more if he’d come out and said Hope Solo is a pain in the neck player to manage, that she rubs everybody the wrong way, that she is always getting in trouble and embarrassing the USWNT.

Although there are professional women soccer leagues out there, the real career and best competition in women soccer is the circuit of international tournaments that these players and coaches participate in. So, a six-month suspension, though excessive, could be explained away, but terminating her contract with USSF is essentially ending her career.

And this is my point, is Gulati saying that this outburst is a worse offense than her domestic violence crisis, her husband’s driving under the influence incident that Solo aided and abetted? Remember, Hope announced her arrival on the international stage by embarrassing legendary USWNT Briana Scurry in 2007 and has picked fights and assorted other spats with other legends of the women game.

But what is undeniable is her talent. She is, simply put, the best women’s goalkeeper in the world today. But, by the next FIFA Women’s World Cup, when she will be 37 years old, would Hope Solo still be indispensable to USMNT? USSF is taking this opportunity because it has the time and it is convenient for them to get rid of a talented but problematic player.

U.S. Soccer, desperately in need of Hope Solo for the FIFA Women’s World Canada 2015, sweated out her domestic violence situation and heaved a sigh of relief when the case against her was dismissed. Her team went on to World Cup glory, Hope Solo an indispensable cog in that wheel.

Hope Solo should not have played in Canada and certainly should not have played in the Rio Olympics because she just doesn’t exude the crocodile “ideals” that Gulati was talking about. But he knew that.

This is why the rest of the women on the national team should take the termination of Hope Solo’s contract as a shot across the bow. Today, it’s Hope Solo. The next time it’ll be one of them.

Players on the USWNT have been locked in a pay dispute with the U.S. Soccer Federation, especially in comparison with male soccer players. U.S. women, besides winning practically every tournament they enter, being world ambassadors for the game, they are a huge draw when their world cup games are televised.

The U.S. Men’s National Team, by comparison, are minnows who get swallowed up in competition after competition and they don’t match the women at the box office. Yet, their pay far surpasses that of the women.

Hope Solo was one of the five women who filed a lawsuit earlier this year demanding equal pay for equal work and calling for an investigation of what they believe to be U.S. Soccer’s discriminatory wage practices.

So, besides being a pain the neck in other areas off the field, Hope Solo was part of a lawsuit against USSF. Now, USSF has terminated her contract on a bullshit reason. Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, who are the other players on the lawsuit, imagine what happens to you when the USSF no longer has a use for you.