Hope Solo, the USA’s undisputed No 1
Goalkeeper Hope Solo has been a pillar of the USWNT (United States Women’s National Team) for many years, helping them win back-to-back golds at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Donning the gloves
Introduced to football by her father, Hope Solo was a prolific goalscorer during her teenage years in Richland, Washington State, scoring 109 goals for her high school team between 1996 and 1999 and helping them win three straight regional titles in the process.
It was not until she started playing for the Huskies, the University of Washington’s team, that she switched to goalkeeping. Solo quickly showed that she belonged in the position, racking up a club record 325 saves and 18 clean sheets during her collegiate career.
Crossing the Pond
Solo made her move into professional football in 2003 with Philadelphia Charge in the WUSA league, which would suspend its operations that same year. The following year saw the keeper head to Europe to sign for Swedish club Gothenburg before then joining French powerhouses Olympique Lyonnais in 2005.
“I played in Europe and it was a great experience, not just because of my team-mates and the coaches we had, but from the fans and the cities themselves,” she said of her sojourn across the Atlantic. “I played in Gothenburg and I played in Lyon and soccer was everywhere. At that time in my life, it really jump-started my career and really helped me find myself as a person and player.”
A maiden Olympic gold
A USA junior international, Solo made her first senior appearance for her country in April 2000, but was absent from the side that won the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament at Athens 2004 and did not hold down a regular starting place in the side until 2005.
In making her Olympic debut at Beijing 2008, she turned in a series of accomplished displays, keeping Brazil’s much-vaunted strikers at bay in the final as the US recorded a 1-0 victory after extra-time to retain their title.
Payback in London
The US No1 thwarted Brazil once more in the quarter-finals of the 2011 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Following a 2-2 stalemate, Solo denied Daiane from the spot in the penalty shootout to help send the Stars and Stripes through, though they would go on to lose on penalties to Japan in the final.
Solo and her compatriots avenged that defeat a year later in the London 2012 final at Wembley, running out 2-1 winners in front of an 80,000 crowd. Not surprisingly, the keeper played a decisive role in the win, pulling off a spectacular save from a powerful Mana Iwabuchi drive eight minutes from time.
One of only three players to spend every single minute of the USA’s matches on the pitch, a jubilant Solo celebrated her second Olympic gold medal with her team-mates on the Wembley turf, pulling on a T-shirt bearing the legend: “Greatness has been found”.
Ruling the world
After publishing her autobiography, A Memoir of Hope, Solo signed for NWSL club Seattle Reigns in 2013. A subsequent wrist injury saw her sidelined for a few months. On returning to international duty, she played a decisive part in the USWNT’s Women’s World Cup triumph in Canada in 2015, which was sealed with a 5-2 defeat of Japan in the final. In recognition of her superlative performances between the posts, Solo won the Golden Glove award as the tournament’s outstanding goalkeeper.
Back down to earth in Brasilia
The Americans stayed unbeaten in the lead-up to Rio 2016, with Solo chalking up the 100th clean sheet and 150th victory of her international career in the 1-0 defeat of South Africa in Chicago, her 197th outing for the USA.
The USWNT arrived in Brazil with high hopes of a fourth consecutive Olympic title. They began their title defence with respective 2-0 and 1-0 defeats of New Zealand and France in the group phase, with Solo winning her 200th cap in the second of those games, an occasion she marked with some typically superb saves.Yet, following a 2-2 draw with Colombia, the USA came unstuck in the quarter-finals against Sweden, losing on penalties after the Swedes had held them to a 1-1 draw after extra time. It was the first time the Stars and Stripes had failed to grace an Olympic podium since women’s football made its debut on the programme at Atlanta 1996.