10 Things You Need to Know About US Women's Soccer Goalie Hope Solo

Alessandro Miglio@@AlexMiglioFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2012

10 Things You Need to Know About US Women's Soccer Goalie Hope Solo

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    The international stage is not unfamiliar to Hope Solo, who has defended the goal for the U.S. women's soccer team for over a decade. The 2012 Games in London will be her third Olympics, but how well do you know the national team's keeper?

    In case you need to catch up or simply want to get to know her better, here are 10 things you should know about the national team's only Hope.

Solo's Inspiration

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    Becoming an athlete of Solo's caliber does not come without perseverance, and her upbringing certainly speaks to that spirit.

    Solo comes from a broken home, her parents divorcing when she was the age of six. That may seem unremarkable considering the rising divorce rate, but that was just the beginning of the story.

    Jeffrey John Solo was a war veteran, having served in the Navy at Vietnam. After his divorce, Mr. Solo found himself occasionally living on the street or in the woods outside of town, though his daughter refused to say he was homeless (via Jill Leeber Stieg of USA Today): 

    "He was a tough Italian guy who was raised in a boys home in the Bronx," [Solo] says. "He always had that street sense in him. In terms of being 'homeless,' I'm always very careful not to define it that way. He chose to live in the woods. He enjoyed it. I'd offer him money, and he'd never take a dime. If I looked for him, I wouldn't look for him at a homeless shelter."

    Despite these obstacles in her early childhood, Solo maintained a strong relationship with her father. He was her first soccer coach, teaching and helping shape her into the formidable athlete she is today. 

    He passed away on June 15, 2007, shortly before that year's World Cup.

    Solo simply did what she knew: persevere. Starting in her first World Cup, she led the national team to the semifinals.

Soccer Life for Her Began as a Forward

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    She might be the best goalkeeper in the world, but that might not have been her goal during high school.

    Before she made a name for herself in American soccer, Solo was a two-time Parade All-American while playing forward.

    She played the position for her hometown Richland Bombers, scoring 109 goals throughout her career en route to leading her team to three straight league titles, culminating with a state championship from 1996 through '98. 

    That is an average of 28 goals per year—not bad for the would-be goalie.

    Though she had dabbled at the position at the age of 15—her coach challenged her to try her hand at goalkeeping at national camps—her solo career as goalkeeper began in earnest when she switched to the position in college. Even then, she begrudgingly became Washington's all-time leader in goals-against average (1.02), shutouts (18) and saves (325). 

    Solo morphed from a good forward to an elite goalkeeper within a few years.

Hope Solo, International Woman of Mystery

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    She is no super spy—that we know of—but Solo has a celebrated international career dating much further back than the '07 World Cup.

    The 2012 Olympics will not be Hope's first rodeo, but how long has she been competing on the international stage?

    Look back to 1999 to find the answer. After switching to full-time goalkeeper that same year, she was invited to the national team December camp. She was invited back to another camp in March of 2000 and made her first start on the national stage against Iceland in April that year, shutting out the Icelanders, 8-0.

    She has not looked back since.

    Solo was stuck behind world-class keeper Briana Scurry for the big events, but she earned her place as an alternate to the 2004 Olympics, overtaking Scurry as the starter in 2005.

International Brouhaha for Solo

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    Naturally, she was tabbed as the starter for the 2007 World Cup, with Scurry coming along as her backup.

    Solo scored an impressive WC debut, allowing just two goals in four games as she helped lead the national team to a semifinal berth.

    She was cruising to that point, having shut out three straight opponents over a span of 300-plus minutes, but head coach Greg Ryan had other plans. In a controversial move, Ryan tapped Scurry to start against the dangerous Brazilians despite Solo's surge.

    It backfired.

    Brazil tagged Scurry for four goals en route to a 4-0 victory, ending a 51-game winning streak for the national team and infuriating Solo to the point where she buried the veteran and her coach. That did not sit well with Ryan, who dismissed her from the tournament as Scurry led the team to a third-place finish.

    Bygones are bygones, however. That Solo issued an apology via MySpace tells you how long ago the controversy boiled over.

She Is a Golden Girl Twice over

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    After the controversy-marred 2007 World Cup, the U.S. women looked to rebound in the 2008 Olympics.

    Greg Ryan was no longer the coach, and Solo was reinstated as the team's keeper—could they really afford to keep her away?

    Though Solo already earned a gold medal as an alternate for the 2004 team, it was her time to get one as the starter. She did so in brilliant fashion, allowing just five goals over six games. She shut out nemesis Brazil in the final match, serving poetic justice on a golden platter.

    She will set out to help the U.S. women seek redemption from World Cup disappointment once more this year in London.

Outside the National Team, She Is a Professional Nomad

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    Aside from a sparkling international career, Solo naturally sports a professional side.

    She was drafted to the Philadelphia Charge in 2003 as part of the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA), which is now defunct.

    After the league folded, Solo was drafted by the St. Louis Athletica of the Women's Professional Soccer league. She was named the goalkeeper of the year in its inaugural season from 2009.

    The Athletica folded shortly thereafter, however, leaving Solo free to sign with the Atlanta Beat. She stirred some controversy as part of the Beat, ripping into Boston fans via Twitter after losing to the Boston Breakers. She would take to Twitter again later in the year, earning a $2,500 fine and eight hours of community service for criticizing referees and the league. (Side note: this is the first time I have ever heard of a league sentencing a player to community service.)

    Solo switched teams once again, signing with the magicJack in Boca Raton, Florida. She was with that team for just one season as well after bad blood between owner Dan Borislow and the league got the team relegated to exhibition-only. The WPS has since folded as well.

    Her turbulent professional career has finally landed her back home in Seattle as the goalkeeper for the Sounders, though she contemplated an attempt to join a professional men's league.

    Methinks she would be just fine against the boys.

Yoga May Have Saved Her Life

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    It was dark outside as evening had set in during the heart of western Canadian winter.

    The U.S. National Women's soccer team, including Solo, was staying in a British Columbia hotel for the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament earlier this year, and they were about to leave for Starbucks. A sudden impulse to do some yoga came over the ladies.

    Little did they know that the impromptu session may have saved their lives.

    Shots rang out in the lobby as they stretched upstairs, killing a reputed gang member. Thankfully, the soccer stars were in a different part of the hotel because they were delayed in their coffee departure.

    Yoga might be good for the body, but in this case, it may have been much more.

She Is a Bionic Woman

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    If you paid attention to the 2011 Women's World Cup, you know that Solo was playing with a surgically-repaired shoulder. What you may not know is the extent of her injury (via Jeff Carlisle of ESPN):

    These days, a complete 360-degree tear of the labrum is referred to as "the Drew Brees injury." Solo went several steps beyond that. There was no articular cartilage left in her shoulder joint, forcing her to undergo a microfracture procedure in which the bone is made to bleed to create new, substitute cartilage. The biceps tendon had detached completely from the bone. Three separate pieces of bone had come clean off the shoulder.

    With the World Cup looming, Solo made the decision to have her shoulder rebuilt. In the operation performed, by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, 11 different anchors were put in place to stabilize the joint.

    Thankfully, they could rebuild her. While she may not be bigger, faster or stronger—at least not as a direct result of the surgery—she was back to her old self, or close to it. Not before ridiculously rigorous rehab, however.

    Solo ultimately came back from the potentially career-ending injury to perform at a high level, winning the Golden Glove at the World Cup last summer.

She Danced as One Half of Maksolo

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    After her masterful World Cup performance rocketed her to fame, Dancing with the Stars came knocking.

    Prior to the show, professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy—affectionately referred to as Maks, which this writer is thankful for after trying to spell his name—campaigned for Solo to be his partner during the 2011 World Cup.

    She obliged.

    The duo danced their way into the semifinals, but they were voted off the show. Naturally, Solo's appearance on the show was not without a bit of controversy. The dancing team dubbed "Maksolo" was flippant and critical of the judging panel throughout the season to the bitter end, though being told she was not dainty enough by the show's producers might have been a reason.

Beginning of the End for Solo?

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    Solo will turn 31 during these Olympics. Could this be the start of her last four-year run of her career?

    Brianna Scurry was 34 when Solo overtook her as the national team starter in 2005. Of course, Solo is a special talent—who knows what lies ahead at goalie for women's American soccer? For all we know, Solo might have to do it until she cannot or will not.

    Though it seems unlikely this will be her final major tournament, relish Solo's performance as though it will be her last on the international stage. Sports careers can be fickle, and the next World Cup is three years away. Sadly, the advent of professional soccer in the United States has not been successful thus far for women, so we may not get another good look at her until then if she is still in goal.