Hope Solo: Endless Attention Away from Field Overshadows Keeper's Superb Skill

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09:  Goalkeeper Hope Solo #1 of United States looks on while taking on Japan in the second half during the Women's Football gold medal match on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium on August 9, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Hope Solo is arguably the greatest female goalkeeper in the world, but her off-field antics land her in the news more often than her actual play on the field does.

In her short reign as Team USA's starting keeper, Solo has called out former starting keeper Briana Scurry, made claims that former Team USA legend Brandi Chastain doesn't know the game of soccer and put the habits of Olympians on full display in a tell-all report from ESPN.com.

Solo loves attention, and playing on the world's best soccer team doesn't seem to be enough for her. Washington Post reporter Matt Brooks' report on Wednesday added further to that claim:

In her new book, “Solo: A Memoir of Hope,” the goalkeeper alleges that former national team coach Greg Ryan shoved her in a meeting during the 2007 World Cup.

I'm not saying that Solo is making this up, despite Ryan's insistence to ESPN reporter Michael Rothstein that he did no such thing:

"This allegation is completely false," Ryan said in a statement released Tuesday. "I did not shove or push Hope as I've been accused in her book. I would have been terminated immediately by USA Soccer had this allegation been true. I have openly discussed the contents of the meeting and this is the first time that this accusation has been brought to light."

Someone isn't telling the truth about whatever happened, but that's not the point. The point is: Solo's name is always in the headlines for one reason or another. The most prominent headlines have nothing at all to do with her play on the field. 

You could argue that this helps women's sports. She's easily the most popular female American athlete right now, and, let's be honest, that part of the sporting world deserves more attention.

But does it have to come in this form?

We obviously don't know what really happened between Ryan and Solo, and we probably never will. That doesn't take away from the other incidents that have landed the keeper in the news.

Solo's play is enough to garner her attention. Her stellar play in the Summer Olympics' gold-medal match against Japan was a major reason Team USA was able to earn first place in London. She played very well in the 2011 World Cup as well.

Her talent is undeniable, and she would be smart to keep the attention on those abilities. The constant stream of focus makes her extremely marketable now, but how long will it take for everyone, including her teammates, to grow tired of it? That's if she doesn't call them out first, like she did Scurry.

Some athletes simply cannot help themselves. The limelight can become a magnet for things like this, and Solo is on a roll. 

She may not have many more opportunities to leave a lasting impression. On a recent "Today" show appearance, Solo mentioned that her Olympic future is up in the air.

If she has less than four years remaining in her international career, she needs to ask herself a question. Does she want to be remembered for her play on the pitch, or for her antics off of it?

Right now, she's on pace for the latter.