Will Hope Solo Ever Play for the United States Again?
August 31, 2016
FOLLOWING THE United States women’s national team's exit from the 2016 Olympics, Hope Solo has endured a rapid downward spiral.
In the heat of the moment, only minutes after losing to Sweden in penalties, Solo criticized the Swedes for using an overly defensive gameplan—most notably referring to the Swedish team as “cowards.”
Then, U.S. Soccer issued Solo a six-month suspension from the team and terminated her national team contract.
Finally, on Tuesday, Solo announced she would not be returning to the Seattle Reign for the remainder of her club season.
August 30, 2016
The question now is: Will U.S. fans ever see Solo play for the Yanks again?
Perhaps this latest suspension—as harsh as it is—will finally be the wakeup call Solo needs to change her ways. That said, Solo’s past experiences provide little evidence she will modify her behavior in the future.
Last year, U.S. Soccer issued Solo a 30-day suspension for allowing her husband to drive a U.S. Soccer van while intoxicated. That incident occurred only nine days after a court in Washington dismissed domestic violence charges against Solo (an appeals court has since reinstated those charges), when one would reasonably assume Solo would be doing her best to stay out of trouble.
That suspension ended in February 2015, but less than two months later Solo again opened herself up for criticism when Chicago Red Stars’ fans appeared to goad Solo into an inappropriate gesture during a club game (1:50:18 of the clip below).
Hope Solo flipped us off. In front of children— Daniel Eccles (@Daniel_Eccles) April 19, 2015
@hopesolo just gave the bird to @ChicagoLocal134 stay classy hope @ussoccer— Moot (@94_MRD) April 19, 2015
Since then, however, Solo went on to help lead the U.S. to the 2015 World Cup title, claiming the Golden Glove award in that tournament. She also notched her 100th shutout and 200th cap this year, and is still widely regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world.
The ultimate competitor, it’s hard to see Solo allowing this to be the final chapter of her career. And the same edge that often gets her in trouble has helped make her the best women’s goalkeeper of all time.
Yes, she is 35-years-old and has not had the most consistent year in net for either Seattle or the United States. Whether or not her body is ready for the inevitable physical limitations that come with age and whether or not she can work her way back into peak form is an open question.
It’s also fair to ask whether head coach Jill Ellis wants Solo back, considering the possible distractions her presence might bring to the locker room. Those questions seem even more pertinent considering the timing and harshness of this latest penalty. The Americans also have a long slog ahead of them with no major competitions for the next three years. If Ellis is looking to make generational changes to the roster, the time is now.
Assuming U.S. Soccer and Ellis do leave the door open for Solo, they are sure to have a zero tolerance policy and that could be a complicated situation considering Solo still has those domestic violence charges hanging over her. What happens if they allow her back and then she is found guilty?
Her path back on the field also seems difficult and fraught with questions. Without access to national team resources, how will she train over the next six months, especially considering the NWSL season ends in just a few weeks?
One possible option is to head to Europe, where she would certainly fetch an attractive salary and an opportunity to train and play into the spring. Perhaps a strong performance over the next year in the Frauen Bundesliga or Division 1 Feminine with a Champions League contender could get her back into Ellis’ good graces.
Only time will tell.
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.