January 25, 2012
By Michael Lewis
GOING SOLO OR BARNHART?
Quad injury could keeper GK out of Costa Rica game in Olympic qualifying semis
VANCOUVER -- U.S. women's national coach Pia Sundhage has an intriguing choice to make before the Americans' semifinal match against Costa Rica in the CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying tournament on Friday night:
|U.S. coach Pia Sundhage will have to decide on Friday whether goalkeeper Hope Solo is fit enough to start in the team's Olympic qualifying semifinal against Costa Rica.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Does she play goalkeeper Hope Solo, who aggravated a quad muscle in the 4-0 triumph over Mexico on Tuesday or does she start backup Nicole Barnhart?
Solo is determined to be in the lineup for the game, which will determine whether the United States reaches the London Summer Olympics. Both semifinal winners will qualify; Canada faces Mexico in the second game of the doubleheader. The U.S. has qualified for all four previous soccer tournaments.
"We have to make a decision whether she is 100 percent to go or not," Sundhage said at the team hotel on Wednesday. "And if she isn't, we have a tremendous backup goalkeeper."
After Tuesday's game, Solo said she was a little worried she might leave the game with a "little quad pull" as she held her right leg. She added on twitter that she tweaked the muscle the morning of the 13-0 victory over Guatemala on Sunday before aggravating in the first half of the Mexican confrontation.
Solo has started and finished in each of the three U.S. victories -- all shutouts. She hardly has been tested as the American defense has limited the opposition to a handful of dangerous opportunities.
Solo, the U.S. keeper for the last two important tournaments -- during the 2008 gold-medal winning run in at the Beijing Olympics and during the second-place finish at the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany -- had lost some of her muscle strength when she appeared on "Dancing With the Stars," for two months. While her dancing demanded every dancer to be in shape, an athlete, especially a soccer goalkeeper, uses different muscles while playing the game.
"She knows she needs to work really hard to get there," Sundhage said. "So if she skips one day, she has to go twice the next day. If you look at her situation, since the World Cup she's a very popular person. ... It takes time for her to get back."
"Talking to her, she wants to be the best goalkeeper," the coach said. "She knows what it takes and she needs to be patient. The most important thing is we don't want to jeopardize anything."
Solo was unavailable to talk to the media on Wednesday, although she tweated: "Got an extra day 2 get this leg right! Thank God i have the best trainers!"
On Tuesday night, Solo lived up to her name, as she was, well, hopeful, of playing against Costa Rica.
"Luckily going into the next game, the most important game, I'll have an extra day of rest," she said. "So I think things should be fine. I'm hoping things will be fine."