The outspoken USA goalkeeper, who turns 36 this summer, is inching back into the spotlight after a six-month suspension and shoulder replacement surgery
For months, the question was simple. Where is Hope Solo?
The former and perhaps future US womens goalkeeper, who parlayed her fame into an appearance on Dancing With The Stars and legions of social media adherents, had pulled a reverse DB Cooper, leaving Washington state and disappearing into an area defined by her management merely as rural North Carolina.
Now shes tiptoeing back into the spotlight. Shes making a handful of media and public appearances, all on her own terms. Over the weekend, she was in Philadelphia as an ambassador for Street Soccer USA, which hosted a youth event and announced squads for the Homeless World Cup. Shes doing neither of the things for which shes famous playing football and stirring up controversy.
Those who know Solo still arent ready to talk about her and what she may do in the future. Among those who declined or didnt respond to requests for remark from the Guardian for this story: Solo lawyers, the US womens players union and a number of former team-mates.
So now the question is more complex: w ho is Hope Solo? And who will she be when shes healthy enough to play again?
Solo has little left to accomplish in international football. She has two Olympic gold medals and one World Cup title. Individually, she has two World Cup Golden Glove awardings and a staggering 102 shutouts in 202 games.
She has been off the field for two reasons. Firstly because of shoulder replacing surgery, a final effort to clear up some long-standing issues. Secondly, and more infamously, because of her six-month suspension( now served) from the US team after the 2016 Olympics. In Rio, she referred to Sweden, the first team to beat the USA in the quarter-finals of a major tournament, as a bunch of cowards, the most recent in a long line of controversies dating back to her benching and subsequent outburst at the 2007 World Cup.
Solo has said her fight for equal pay for womens players was a factor in her dismissal. But the other players who led that effort Becky Sauerbrunn, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe continue to have prominent roles with the team, sometimes in spite of hard-core fans preferences to see younger players in the mix.
Another narrative: US Soccer put up with Solo until a fall in performance, including got a couple of uncharacteristic blunders in the 2016 Olympics, made her expendable. CNN commentator Mel Robbins made that case in blaming US Soccer as an example of a dysfunctional organization tolerating misbehavior by its top musicians: Shes predominated the field for more than a decade, which is why her behavior off the field has been tolerated for so long. She has trashed her coach-and-fours, chided team-mates and frustrated the federation. And up to now, US Soccer has given her behavior a slap on the wrist. Last Wednesday, that came to an end.
US Soccer did indeed put forth the line that the cowards comment was simply the last straw. Each time an action has been taken theres been made clear an expectation that this would be the last day such a step would be necessary, coach-and-four Jill Ellis said in September.
And Solos list of disputes, and triumphant returns, is long.
She was benched for the 2007 World Cup semi-final against Brazil reasons cited include the implausible notion that the team had more confidence in rusty veteran Briana Scurry and the plausible notion that missing curfew and a team session had not gone over well and sounded off after the USAs 4-0 loss with a cutting remark: sheres no doubt in my intellect I wouldve attained those saves. She was cast out by angry team-mates.
But the next year, she was back. And in the 2008 Olympic final, she turned in one of her many big-game masterpieces as the USA won gold and exacted retaliation on the Brazilian squad that played them off the field in 2007.
Over the next four-year cycle, she courted dispute several times, lunging accusations of favoritism and even racism at contenders and others associated with Womens Professional Soccer, the league that ran from 2009 to 2011. Her 2012 volume, Solo: A Memoir of Hope, doubled down on some of those accusations and re-opened the scars of the 2007 benching.
A couple of her targets returned fire. Greg Ryan, who was US coach during Solos benching at the 2007 World Cup, denied her accusation that he jostle her in a meeting. Andrew Crossley, a former executive with the Boston Breakers, picked apart Solos restated accusations of racial abuse from Boston fans. Maksim Chmerkovskiy, her partner on Dancing With The Stars, denied asserts that he slapped her.
But most of her former colleagues simply dont engage. Brandi Chastain, a veteran player who managed commentary duties in the 2012 Olympics, said little with a view to responding to Solos Twitter critique of her broadcasting skills. Team-mates from 2007 said little about her accusations of unfair treatment.
And once again, Solo shook off the controversy and emerged with on-field honors: a Golden Glove and Bronze Ball in the 2011 World Cup despite a loss in the final to a brilliant Japanese team, then Olympic gold in 2012.
The controversies of the next four years didnt involve soccer. The general public learned of her engagement to former NFL player Jerramy Stevens when police arrested Stevens at her home the evening before their wedding in 2012.( Stevens was never charged .) In 2015, Stevens served 30 days in jail and Solo was suspended from the national team for 30 days after Stevens was arrested for DUI while driving a US team van.
Another family incident is still tied up in Washingtons tribunals. In 2014, she was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault after an incident with two relatives. A local judge dismissed the charges the next year due to issues with depositions and witness, but attorneys successfully appealed to reinstate them in October 2015. Solos legal squad has opposed the decision to reinstate the charges ever since, losing several appeals and reviews but eventually getting the instance put on hold until the state Supreme court rules on an unrelated instance that also has witness issues.
All of which entails Solo may or may not need to return from her new home or perhaps a new club team to stand trial in Washington, depending in part on how well attorneys followed procedure in an obscure DUI case that doesnt involve Solo in the least.
But Solo was able to participate in the World Cup and Olympics, all while maintaining a high profile. A documentary called Keeping Score had a shocking finale: Solos raw feelings after US Soccer suspended her for six months and terminated her playing contract.
Solo also opted against returning to her NWSL team, the Seattle Reign. A month afterwards, she had her shoulder surgery. And for the most part, she dropped from public opinion for a while.
She still isnt doing many interviews. An exception was an interview/ photo shoot for Seattle-based Ville Magazine that offered more brand promotion than in-depth datum. Next to a photo of Solo wearing $798 leggings and a $436 leather coat, the introduction maintains the well-worn narration of Solo as the target of misplaced slings and arrows: However, physical traumata arent the only challenge shes had to withstand. Being a subject of controversy in her personal and professional life has taken its own toll. The media has painted a negative picture of this Washington native, but that is far from what defines her and who she really is.