Time To Move On: Hope Solo is tired – and so is U.S. Soccer

hope solo

By TOM SLATER

The Hope Solo saga continued yesterday when the (former) goalkeeper released a statement saying she would not be playing with the Seattle Reign during the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season.

Or for any other soccer team for that matter.

Her announcement on social media cited mental stress as the reason for the break.

Take a look at her strange August. In less than 30 days, Solo:

  • was booed by the entire nation of Brazil for her homemade Zika prevention kit;
  • saved the day against France; allowed two goals including a howler as Colombia got a draw;
  • was less than stellar against Sweden
  • insulted former coach Pia Sundhage for not playing attacking soccer;
  • was suspended for six months and had her contract terminated by US Soccer;
  • is now sitting out the final month of the NWSL season.

That is a full month for anyone’s standards. No wonder she’s tired.

And it’s probably for the best. For everyone involved. For the United States Women’s National Team; for the Seattle Reign; and for Solo herself. Because even though Solo is tired, so is everyone else.

Solo’s off-the-field issues have been many in the past 10 seasons – from the criticizing of former US coach Greg Ryan for playing Brianna Scurry instead of her in a World Cup semifinal against Brazil to her issues with Brandi Chastain’s television commentary to the domestic abuse charges to taking a joy ride with her husband in the team van during last year’s World Cup lead-up.

All of this was acceptable to US Soccer as long as Solo was the number one goalkeeper in the world. Sunil Gulati and the rest of the administration could look the other way when Hope was making save after save. When she was the most capped goalkeeper ever. When she was going for 100 shutouts.

For the last decade, the United States needed Solo in goal.  One of Sundhage’s first acts as the United States coach was to repair the damage done by Solo after her rant against Ryan and, by implication, Scurry. There was the famous “The Times They Are A Changin’“ guitar solo by Sundhage at her first team meeting.  “You want to win?” she said at the time. “Then you need a goalkeeper.”

Looking the other way or dismissing a stolen van as “Hope being Hope” worked for a while. Her play was a big part of the 2015 World Cup championship and two Olympic Gold Medals.

But those championships are in the past. She’s getting older. Her play in Brazil wasn’t awful. But it wasn’t sterling either. Slipping doesn’t come all at once. Sometimes it comes in bits and pieces.

The next big tournament for the Americans comes in three years when Solo will be 38. That’s not ancient for a goalkeeper. But maybe Jill Ellis and the rest of the staff don’t want to put up with three more years of off-field headlines and antics.

And she doesn’t have much support from teammates, past or present.  Julie Foudy has taken umbrage with what Solo is doing to the US Women’s National Team brand. Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe had different opinions after the Sweden match. Even Carli Lloyd hasn’t come out in full support for her good friend.

Maybe it’s time to find the next national team goalkeeper, whether she’s in the pool already, in college or in the NWSL. Solo has been the solo option in goal for so long that there’s never been a chance to find out.

The chance is there now.

Hope Solo is tired. And she is probably done with US Soccer for good. And nobody should be surprised. But if ever there was a time to move forward, it is now. And that choice will benefit all parties involved.