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Who is Hope Solo? The BBC Women's World Cup pundit & U.S. national team record holder

18:00 WAT 13/06/2019
Hope Solo
The ex-USWNT goalkeeper is one of the most accomplished players of her generation, but her career has seen as much controversy as it has celebration

Hope Solo hung up her goalkeeping gloves for both club and country three years ago, but she still very much remains a figure in the game.

The ex-U.S. women's national team and Seattle Reign shot-stopper is currently serving as a pundit for the BBC for the Women's World Cup coverage this summer, and her blunt honesty and candour has been making recent headlines.

Solo is a 2015 World Cup winner with the USWNT and often regarded as one of the best female goalkeepers of her generation, earning 202 caps with her national team. She also currently holds the U.S. record for most career clean sheets (102), most appearances for a goalkeeper (202), most starts (190), most wins (154) and longest undefeated streak (55 games).

Having started playing soccer at collegiate level for the University of Washington, she played professionally for the Philadelphia Charge in the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA). She then had stints with Saint Louis Athletica, Atlanta Beat and magicJack, last playing for Seattle Reign FC.

With the USWNT, she also won two consecutive World Cup Golden Gloves in 2011 and 2015, two Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012, clinched two CONCACAF Women's Gold Cups and a SheBelieves Cup title. She's picked up several individual honours as well, having been included in the FIFA FIFPro World XI twice in 2015 and 2016, and named U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year in 2009.

However, as much as she is celebrated for her heroics with her national team, her career has been lined with controversy.

Solo had contract terminated by U.S. Soccer and suspended for six months in 2016, a year after Jill Ellis was appointed interim coach of the team and won the World Cup. She has not played since.

During the 2016 Olympics, the USWNT were eliminated in the quarterfinals to Sweden who won the match in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw, defeating the world champions. 

Following the match, Solo told reporters: “I think we played a bunch of cowards” and “the best team did not win".

Solo reacted angrily to U.S. soccer's decision to terminate her contract, saying that her comments had been used as a pretext to force her out due to her major role in the national team's campaign for equal pay.

And now, speaking on BBC Five Live recently in the UK, Solo brazenly spoke about the USWNT head coach and how her former teammates feel about her.

“Jill is not the leader I wish her to be,” Solo said. “She relies heavily on her assistant coaches. She cracks under the pressure quite a bit. But often that doesn’t matter because the quality of the players on the U.S. team is superb. It doesn’t matter who is coaching us because we will find a way to win. The United States knows how to find a way to win in spite of who the coach is.”

Solo also commented on the criticism received by the USWNT for how they celebrated their goals in their historic 13-0 rout of Thailand in their World Cup opener. While she thought that most celebrations – save for Megan Rapinoe's – were routine and unproblematic, she instead laid the blame towards other football federations who don't bother investing in their women's teams.

"The difference between the US and Thailand - who made the Asian Cup semi-finals just last year - is complicated and like the chicken and the egg," she wrote in the Guardian

"Do you open up the World Cup to grow the game? Or do you grow the game and then open up the World Cup? I think you have to first invest in the women’s game before you get to the World Cup but unfortunately that’s not what a lot of the federations around the world have done or do."

The 37-year-old former goalkeeper did reveal that she had a good relationship with the rest of the coaching staff towards the end of her time with the national team.

But clearly there remains some tension with Ellis and the USWNT after Solo's contract were terminated.

It's not the first instance that controversy has dotted her career.

At the 2007 World Cup, ex-USWNT coach Greg Ryan benched her for the semi-final against Brazil after she had started every game. Solo hit out publicly after the USWNT's 4-0 loss and was alienated by her teammates. Ryan, however, lost his job and Solo was welcomed back to the team under coach Pia Sundhage and won a gold medal in 2008. 

In 2012, her husband Jerramy Stevens was involved in an investigation of assault following an altercation that left Solo injured the day before they were to wed. 

In 2014, she was arrested and charged with two misdemeanour counts of assault in the fourth degree towards two family members, leading her to sit out on a game for Seattle Reign. In 2015, the judge dismissed the charges against Solo based on a lack of cooperation from both alleged victims.

In early 2015, Solo was suspended for 30 days by U.S. Soccer after she and her husband were stopped in a U.S. team van that Stevens was driving in California. He was charged with DUI and served three days in jail.