Former USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo is back in the limelight while providing coverage of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup for the BBC, and guess what, she’s got some shade to throw.
Despite writing in a recent article for The Guardian that three years away from the game has allowed her to “look at things from an unbiased perspective and just enjoy the game for what it is and without the drama,” Solo is currently attempting to stir the pot inside the USWNT camp while singling out the team’s goalkeepers and manager Jill Ellis.
“Jill is not the leader I want her to be,” Solo said. “She relies heavily on her assistant coaches. She cracks under the pressure quite a bit. But often that doesn’t matter because the quality of players on the U.S. team is superb. It doesn’t matter who is coaching us because we will find a way to win. The United States knows how to find a way to win in spite of who the coach is.”
This individual focused approach is exactly what doomed the USWNT during a disjointed 2016 Olympic quarterfinal defeat to Sweden, so it’s strange to see Solo champion 11 uber talented players doing whatever they please at the expense of tactics and teamwork, but the former goalkeeper also found Ellis’ approach at the Olympic Games to be lacking.
“I’ve always liked a tough coach,” said Solo. “Without criticism you’re not going to get better. It’s certainly a different stance to USA coach Jill Ellis, who in the past has not shown mistakes to defenders because she thinks it might affect their confidence. I think that’s the wrong decision. If you can’t show errors to them, then you’re not going to learn. And if you’re not strong enough to watch them and figure out what needs to be done differently, then you’re really not going to improve.
“When I saw this happening with Jill, I asked a lot of times throughout the Olympics: ‘Can we watch this set piece so we figure out how to organize or watch this goal to figure out who left their player?’ She told me time and again she didn’t want to hurt anybody’s confidence, so we won’t look at goals and we won’t look at defensive mistakes.”
The shade she’s thrown at the current crop of USWNT goalkeepers has been a little more subtle, but she’s not exactly mincing her words.
“I know that when my career ended I was at the peak of my game,” said Solo. “So if I had the opportunity to keep playing and pursued it, I know I would have been successful. … I have said multiple times that defense wins tournaments and that you can’t win a major tournament without a great goalkeeper. I have seen that in action, I believe that, I have lived that. This World Cup is the first time that my philosophy will be tested. I’ve seen some of the best teams in the world — the United States and France — who have holes in their defense.”
The response from the USWNT ahead of tomorrow’s opening match against Thailand has been measured.
“I haven’t been on social media since we left New York, so I’m not really sure what’s going on,” said new starting keeper Alyssa Naeher. “The best way to come together as a group is to kind of create that bubble, eliminate all the outside noise. We have all those expectations for ourselves. We don’t need any outside things. We have high standards. We want to win.”
“Comments are comments,” she said. “I feel over the past five years (I’ve) made a lot of important decisions. And I have processes to make those decisions and own those processes. And at this point everything and every focus is about this group of players that are here and now. Pundits that are out there, that’s part of it. And part of the message is always to make sure that the focus is on the internal part of the game. And that’s where we are.”
The USWNT plays Thailand tomorrow (Tuesday, June 11) at 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX. The U.S. is currently ranked number one in the world, Thailand sits at 34.