January 26, 2012
By Michael Lewis
FULL OF HOPE
Solo optimistic, but probably a game-time decision for Friday
VANCOUVER -- Whether Hope Solo starts in goal for the United States against Costa Rica in Fridayís CONCACAF womenís Olympic qualifying semifinal could very well wind up being a game-time decision.
Solo, who is nursing a right quad injury, admitted she doesn't know if she will begin the match that will determine which team goes to the London Olympics and which side stays home.
Being the competitor that she is, Solo obviously would rather play.
When asked how she was feeling, the veteran goalkeeper replied, "it's OK. It's OK."
When asked if she would play in the first game of the doubleheader -- host Canada takes on Mexico in the second encounter -- Solo was optimistic.
"That still is the hope," she said during an interview session at the team hotel on Thursday. "We still have quite some time to figure that out."
She had a rehab session on Thursday night. "We're just going to have to wait and see how it goes," he said.
Of course, the final decision will be up to coach Pia Sundhage, who was unavailable to the media on Thursday.
"We have to do what's best for the team," Solo said. "This isn't a friendly. This isn't the Algarve [Cup] . . . where you get more subs. You get three subs and nobody wants to waste a sub on a goalkeeper. We have to get players in. Pia has to make a smart decision as well. We don't want to see me back there grimacing, holding my leg knowing that we have a tough opponent."
During practice at BC Place, Solo looked uncomfortable as she trained with a bandage on her right leg.
"I never liked tape or bandages, even on my shoulder," he said. "I don't like it on my wrist. I don't like athletic tape or bandages. It is hard to get used to."
But acupuncture, that's something else. Solo used it on Wednesday to help the healing process. It was the third time she tried the treatment.
"I've done it twice before, once on my back, and I never felt [the need for] any help. I did have it once on my shoulder and it did relieve some of the pain, so. It couldn't hurt."
Solo and striker Abby Wambach have taken more than their share of knocks in this competition.
"As a pro athlete, you're always a little bit banged up," Solo said. "You've got some bumps and bruises. . . . It is hard to stay healthy. We're both very professional. We get the job done. We do what we have to do. We spend hours in rehab.
"Personally I have done extra sessions. I have done fitness, extra weight sessions in an effort to get back to where I was prior to my shoulder injury. I don't think people are aware that I am pushing my body to the limit right now."
If Solo can't go, her teammates have the utmost confidence in back-up keeper Nicole Barnhart.
"It's shocking to me that she had a little tweak," captain and central defender Christie Rampone said. "I had no idea in the game. She was playing through it, obviously keeping to herself and getting through the game. She looked good at practice today. If she can go, itís great. But for the defense we have a great goalkeeper in Nicole Barnhart."
Wambach said she had "no doubt" that Solo will play. But if Barnhart has to start, she won't miss a beat.
"One of the most amazing things and probably the toughest parts of Pia's job is how incredibly deep our bench is," she said. "It's not just field players. It's our goalkeepers, who train day-in and day-out, who are fantastic."
Wambach said that Barnhart made shooting practice before the 4-0 win over Mexico on Tuesday night difficult because "she was pulling all of my goals out of the corners, out of the side panels. I was getting frustrated. I was like, 'Seriously? Like I'm going into a game. You're supposed to be pumping my ego up. I'm supposed to be getting confident.' She's like, 'I'm just giving you an opportunity. It's going to be that much easier when you go on the field. My point is our team is so deep. Whoever is starting [Friday] night will be great."