The WNT has won the Olympic Gold.
Did they have the most talented team? Nope.
Did they have the most talented goalkeeper? Yes.
But as you may have noticed, Hope Solo isn’t the “star” of the WNT. No, some say she’s lucky to be on the team at all. After all, her own teammates voted her out after the 2007 World Cup semifinal loss to Brazil. They didn’t even let her attend the bronze medal match. Pretty harsh punishment for someone who only said what she was honestly thinking.
But what she said hurt them so much, they didn’t want her and didn’t think they needed her. In their eyes, she had to “redeem” herself, and to do that she would have to shut out one of the best teams in the world in the Olympic final. And she did it and they did need her. Now, everyone is saying she’s found redemption.
In my eyes, Hope Solo hasn’t “redeemed” herself. According to the Webster’s Online Dictionary, “redeemed” means “to make up for” or “to have restored one’s worth or reputation”. In my mind, she never needed to make up for or restore anything. She was the best American goalkeeper in 2007 and she is now as well.
Ryan’s decision to bench Solo in the seminfinal of the World Cup against Brazil was perhaps the most foolish impulse any modern manager has pulled the trigger on. She had given up two goals in four games against some of the best teams in the world, and he put her on the pine on what should have been the biggest day of her career. It was his decision to make her watch as Brianna Scurry, age 36, struggled against one of the most potent offenses in the world. He purposefully put her in a position where she had to defend herself (and her team after a nasty 4-0 loss), and she said what she thought, which today is the most rare and vulnerable thing an athlete can ever do. Was she critical? Yes. But was she wrong? You be the judge. Here was Solo’s statement:
“It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There’s no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is it’s not 2004 anymore. It’s not 2004. And it’s 2007, and I think you have to live in the present. And you can’t live by big names. You can’t live in the past. It doesn’t matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold medal game in the Olympics three years ago. Now is what matters, and that’s what I think.”
That was what she thought. Refreshing, no? Especially in U.S. women’s soccer, where the players hold certain principles (such as loyalty) over others (like rationality). The bolded statement above is especially interesting. It’s pure speculation for sure, but at the same time, you have to say to yourself: “That is exactly how I want my keeper thinking.” When you’re going into a semifinal against Brazil, you have to want the player who knows she will make the saves, not the one who hopes she will. Ironic, isn’t it.
So, everyone in America thinks they know the Hope Solo story now. How she ran her mouth off and had to make up for it by blanking the most dangerous Brazilian team ever. But that’s not the same story I see. I don’t see it as a story of redemption, I see it as a story of validation. She never had to restore her worth, she just needed a chance to prove it. And she did.