This article is written by Gionna Vitale (@gionnav) for the inaugural American Soccer United Women’s Soccer Month, #WoSoMonth. Cover image via FoxSports.
On August 24, 2016, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced its decision to suspend Hope Solo, the number one goalkeeper in the world, for six months and terminate her contract following the team’s Olympic loss. Now, almost six months later, Jill Ellis looks forward to the future and made changes to the roster by giving more opportunities to the once “bench goalkeepers” of the USWNT.
The federation terminated Solo’s contract for “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principals”—a direct result of the critical comments she made after Sweden eliminated the United States in the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics on August 12. After the loss in a penalty-kick shootout, which sent the Americans home from the Games without a medal for the first time, Solo responded by assailing the Swedes’ conservative tactics and called them “a bunch of cowards” for not going toe-to-toe with the more talented American team.
“Taking into consideration the past incidents involving Hope, as well as the conversations we’ve had requiring her to conduct herself in a manner befitting a U.S. national team member, U.S. Soccer determined this is the appropriate disciplinary action,” US Soccer’s President, Sunil Gulati, said in a statement back in August regarding the reason behind the suspension.
Solo had been the starting goalkeeper for the United States since 2005 and started in three straight World Cups and the three most recent Olympic tournaments. She has made more than 200 appearances and was voted the outstanding goalkeeper of the past two World Cups. Beyond that, though, she has caused public problems for herself and for US Soccer away from the field.
US Soccer said the suspension also took into consideration “past incidents” involving Solo. In 2007, the national team ostracized her for several months after she ripped Greg Ryan, the coach at the time, for starting her as backup in a World Cup semifinal that the Americans lost, 4-0. At the 2012 Olympics, she publicly criticized former player Brandi Chastain, who was calling the team’s games for NBC, on Twitter. Then came Solo’s arrest on domestic violence charges in an incident involving her husband a few years ago.
Solo believes something completely different regarding the reasons behind her suspension. She says she believes the US Soccer Federation suspended her for six months and terminated her contract as retaliation for her stance on equal pay. Solo was among the five members of the USWNT that filed a wage-discrimination action against US Soccer in April 2016. Among its claims, the filing said US Soccer paid the women’s team about a quarter of what the men earn despite generating nearly $20 million more revenue last year.
Now in 2017, the old CBA has been rolled over as no agreement has been reached between the two sides regarding what kind of equality the federation is willing to give to the women’s team. It was announced recently, as well, that defenders Becky Sauerbrunn and Meghan Klingenberg and forward Christen Press have become the heads of the “equal pay equal play” and new CBA negotiation.
“I feel like I’m being pushed out, because it can’t be based off performance, my health,” she said in an episode of her show alongside two of her teammates. “It can’t be based off anything except they don’t like me…because they know I’ve been fighting so hard for equal pay.” Solo became known for her outgoingness and how she does not fear anyone or anything in addition to being the most outspoken member of the USWNT for the past 17 years. She never shied away from expressing her opinion on any situation involving the game, equality, and the team.
“They’re going to use my comments as an excuse to get rid of me forever so they don’t have to deal with such a strong voice and opposition to field conditions and playing conditions and pay. I think I’m just a thorn in their side, and it’s time for them to cut their losses.” Rapinoe, who also appears in the documentary’s final episode, said she believes Solo’s suspension might be “legal strategy” by U.S. Soccer.
The question still stands as to why the USSF decided to suspend the number one goalkeeper in the world over a “cowardly” comment. The new question though is will she return, come back and have such a large role on the team she has dedicated her life to?
Will she be back for another cycle? Does she have a shot of defending all her records and making herself more and more legendary to the point that no other player will ever catch her? Solo’s suspension ended on February 1st; yet, Jill Ellis kept her off the USWNT roster for the SheBelieves Cup. Will she have another contract? Will she wear number one ever again? Will she represent the United States of America in goal ever again?