112112_solohope_isi_uswntmj091612084 Michael Janosz/isiphotos.com

Raising Hope: The Beautiful Defiance of Hope Solo

The best goalkeeper the women’s game has ever seen can’t get out of her own way. But Maura Gladys wonders if that is a bad thing or speaks to some other truth?
BY Maura Gladys Posted
November 21, 2012
7:52 AM
The story broke around noon last Tuesday. Chris Daniels of KING TV in Seattle reported that former Seattle Seahawk Jerramy Stevens had been arrested for domestic violence. The victim? U.S. women’s national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo. The bizarre details trickled out. Stevens and Solo had applied for a marriage license that past Thursday. Police were called to Solo’s home in Kirkland, Washington at 3:45 on Monday morning. Solo had blood on her elbow due to a laceration while Stevens was found upstairs between the bed and the wall. Stevens was arrested for fourth degree domestic assault and appeared in court, but was released that day. The couple married soon after.

The incident is just the latest in a string of headlines about the goalkeeper, who has already secured her status as the greatest female netminder in history. Her place between the sticks is not in question. But everything off the pitch perpetually ties her to controversy.

"I have a lot of critics; we all know that,” Solo famously told ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap earlier this year. “And I do kind of want to say—you know, put my middle finger up to everybody and say, think what you want about me. I am who I am. But at the end of the day, I’m an athlete that wants to win.”

When Hope Solo stands on her goal line, she is a force. Her gloves rest on her sharply jutting hips, her lips pursed, her eyes steeled into a focused glare. She dares opponents to take her on, and when they do, they lose. She's been this way for going on seven years: standing in goal, stonewalling everyone with lightning quick reaction saves, impeccable positioning, and raw willpower. That willpower comes from Solo’s upbringing. She grew up in a plutonium-filled desert called Richland, Washington, with a mother who battled a drinking problem and a homeless father who drifted in and out of her life. Her past made her unapologetic, loyal, dedicated, and unafraid to speak out.

The world first heard Hope Solo speak her mind in 2007, after the United States’ 4-0 loss to Brazil in the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup. Head coach Greg Ryan benched Solo in favor of veteran Brianna Scurry. The U.S. lost 4-0.

The fallout was tremendous. Solo was ostracized from the team. She had to work her way back into the Starting XI and the hearts of her teammates. Her defiant nature and remarkable skill ensured that more incredible performances and publicity incidents would follow.

A brief list of the highs and the lows between 2008 and 2012: The 2009 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year award; a shutout streak of 1,054 minutes of international play; the 2011 World Cup semifinals where she saved two penalties (one was called back) against Brazil; The Bronze Ball and Golden Glove awards at the 2011 Women’s World Cup; a fourth place finish on Dancing With The Stars; a positive drug test before the 2012 Olympic Games; two crucial saves in the gold medal match of the 2012 Olympic Games; a Twitter war with Brandi Chastain; comments about appearing drunk on the Today Show following the 2008 Olympic Games; a spread in ESPN’s “The Body Issue”; a tell-all memoir that took shots at the 1999 U.S. women’s national team.

With Solo, it all came in rapid succession. The good, the bad, and the controversial blended into one long string of sprawling saves, tabloid headlines, golden glove awards, podium photos, and dance montages. What's left is a myth, a walking controversy with goalkeeper gloves.

Which brings us to the Solo of today. A 31-year-old who just got married, who most likely has one more World Cup and Olympic Games left in her, who changed the way people process U.S. women soccer players as athletes and individuals.

Some say Solo’s off-field behavior is a detriment to women’s soccer and a distraction away from the good she does on it. Others argue her story would not be as sensational if she were a male athlete. These are not mutually exclusive positions.

The Hope Solo who competes on the field is the same one who courts controversy off it. One cannot exist, or excel, without the other. The hard work and intensity that she demonstrates between the lines stems from the same part of her soul and her character that speaks out, poses naked, and marries Jerramy Stevens. And Solo has made it clear, through her words and her actions, that she will not be compromising that character. And that is the most important thing about Hope Solo.

Maura Gladys works in production for KICKTV. She also runs the goalkeeping blog All You Need Is Glove.

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