Aug. 20, 2008
By Michael Lewis
SOME HOPE FOR A GOLD
Solo gets a chance at redemption vs. Brazil
Beijing -- U.S. international goalkeeper Hope Solo gets an opportunity Thursday night that not many of us will get -- a chance at redemption.
|Goalkeeper Hope Solo gets a shot at Brazil in a meaningful game in the women's Olympic gold-medal match Thursday.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Ten months after being in the middle of a major controversy, Solo finally takes on Brazil in a meaningful game -- the women's soccer gold-medal match of the Olympics.
Last Sept. 27 an angry Solo vented her frustration about her benching in last year's Women's World Cup semifinal against the Brazilians. Then U.S. coach Greg Ryan surprisingly had replaced her with veteran Briana Scurry and the Americans suffered their worst defeat in history, 4-0, in the in Hangzhou, China.
"There is no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves," Solo told Canadian TV in Hangzhou, some three hours south of this city.
Not surprisingly, Solo's comments created a major controversy on a team best known for being so close-knit. She was banned from being around the team at the WWC -- she did not sit on the bench during the 4-1 third-place match victory over Norway -- and was ostracized by her teammates.
So, it shouldn't be surprising that Solo is looking forward to the game at Workers Stadium at 9 p.m. local time Thursday (USA Network, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, 9 a.m.).
"I think it would be nice to play Brazil and want to reclaim what you wanted to have," Solo told reporters after she backstopped the U.S.'s 4-2 semifinal win over Japan Monday night.
The Americans are the reigning Olympic champions, having won in Athens, Greece four years ago against Brazil in extratime, 2-1. Most of the talk, however, is about the Americans avenging last year's embarrassing defeat.
Solo said that was in the past.
"I don't think it's a personal thing anymore," she said. "I think it's the team wanting to reclaim what we could have gotten in the World Cup. It has nothing to do with personal anything right now."
Solo paid the price personally with her teammates. It took a while, but her teammates warmed up and came around. They had to because Solo won back her starting status. If the Americans had any shot of winning here, they would have to do so as a team.
"I feel great with my teammates," Solo said. "I've never been that player who is overly close to my teammates. But yes now we are and it's not just winning. It's living in a foreign country, living in an athletes village."
Since Solo's benching and outburst, the team atmosphere has been transformed dramatically.
Ryan has been replaced by Pia Sundhage, who has changed the team's style of play and psyche with her power of positive thinking. Solo's teammates say they have forgiven her.
"That's pretty much happened," said forward Angela Hucles, who leads the team with four goals. "That's something we haven't even thought about since last year. That's definitely been put behind us for a long time. It only comes up when the media asks us questions about it."
The U.S. must find a way to stop a lethal Brazilian attack that includes two-time FIFA world player of the year Marta, Cristiane(tournament-best five goals) and Daniela. That trio did not play against the U.S. during three friendlies earlier this year, all 1-0 American victories.
How good is Brazil? Well, Germany did not allow a goal in its first four games before the Brazilians rolled to a 4-1 victory Monday. That's how good.
"There's going to be a lot of emotion," Solo told the Kansas City Star. "We have to maintain that and keep our focus. Brazil does a great job of coming in and dancing and singing and creating an atmosphere and environment that can be intimidating. But I think we've seen that enough."