U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo hasn’t allowed a goal or answered a media question for the last four Women’s World Cup matches.
MONTREAL – It has been a quiet Women’s World Cup for Hope Solo.
On the field, the U.S. goalkeeper has been called on to make 11 saves in five matches. And off the field, the former Washington Huskies standout who plays for Seattle Reign FC has been all but inaudible, answering a mere three questions after giving up a goal in the opener against Australia.
Solo hasn’t answered another question or allowed another goal since, making her the only keeper at the World Cup who has more shutouts than questions answered.
Tuesday on TV
U.S. vs. Germany, 4 p.m., Ch. 13.
“Each player can make their own decision in regards in speaking to the media,” a U.S. Soccer spokesman said of Solo, the lone American player who declines to stop on her way from the locker room to the team bus after matches.
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If the silent Solo hasn’t been accountable to media, though, she has been to teammates, with her national record of 423 consecutive scoreless minutes allowing the Americans to advance to the semifinals unbeaten after a pair of 1-0 victories and a scoreless draw.
The second-ranked U.S. team faces top-ranked Germany in a semifinal match Tuesday, meaning Solo is likely to be tested.
“She’s the best goalkeeper in the world,” defender Ali Krieger said, an opinion shared by U.S. coach Jill Ellis.
But Solo often has been the most disruptive and complicated player on the team as well, one whose list of misdeeds rivals her list of records.
Solo was dismissed from the team — and ostracized by many teammates — during the 2007 World Cup after publicly criticizing then-coach Greg Ryan’s decision to pull her in favor of Briana Scurry in the semifinals. Then came Twittergate at the 2012 Olympics, when Solo embarrassed teammates with pointed remarks made on social media.
Yet that was just a warm-up for the last 13 months.
In June 2014, Solo was charged with two counts of domestic assault after an altercation with her nephew and half-sister in Kirkland. And in January she was riding shotgun when her husband, former Seahawks and UW tight end Jerramy Stevens, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence while behind the wheel of a U.S. Soccer van. Stevens later pleaded no contest.
In the first instance, the case was dismissed after Solo’s attorney successfully argued the alleged victims had refused to be deposed by defense attorneys; prosecutors are appealing that decision.
In the second, Solo was suspended for a month by U.S. Soccer officials who, having grown tired of the drama, hinted strongly she might have to watch the World Cup on television.
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati declined to say whether the conditions of Solo’s reinstatement involved treatment for substance abuse or counseling.
In her blog, Solo credits visits to a therapist and an Eastern medicine healer with helping get her back on the field.
Whatever the reason, Ellis has noticed a difference.
“She’s done a fantastic job with this team, with this program,” Ellis said after Friday’s 1-0 quarterfinal triumph over China, one in which Solo earned her ninth Cup shutout and a U.S.-record 134th career victory.
“On the field, she’s tremendous. I’ve really noticed — on the field, off the field — just a real good focus.”
And that focus might have been helped by her silence. Solo stopped talking shortly after ESPN, on the eve of the World Cup, reported new details of the year-old domestic-abuse case, leading to questions that were more about her personal life than her soccer performance.
Thus she stopped taking questions.
What she hasn’t had to answer for, though, is her play. At 33 and with two Olympic championships and a bronze and silver medal from two World Cups, Solo is arguably playing the best soccer of her career.
Since returning from her suspension in March, Solo has 10 shutouts in 13 starts. And she hasn’t allowed more than one goal in any match.
She owes much of her success at this World Cup to a young back line that has given Solo long periods with nothing much to do.
In a scoreless draw with Sweden, for example, Solo wasn’t called on to make a save. And in a round-of-16 shutout of Colombia, she didn’t face a shot until the 84th minute.
“I think she’s very happy about that,” Krieger said.
Added midfielder Morgan Brian: “She’s been used to that for so many years. But she’s made some saves that have kept us in games. That’s what her job is.”
Though Solo goes mute after matches, she doesn’t stop talking during them.
“She organizes the defense. And anyone helping in the midfield,” Brian said. “That’s huge for that position.”
So are the comments positive or profane?
“That depends on what happens in the play,” Morgan said with a smile.
Germany has scored a tournament-best 20 goals and is averaging nearly 12 shots on target per match — more than twice as many as any other team.
One goal against the well-rested Solo could be too many for the U.S. since German keeper Nadine Angerer is also a top player.
“She’s consistent. She’s confident. She does her job really well,” Krieger said of Angerer, a former Frankfurt teammate. “They really look for her for making those MVP plays.”
Told it sounded like she was describing Solo, Krieger laughed.
“Hope’s better,” she said.