MONTREAL — U.S. Soccer paid to have two of its goalkeepers coaches travel to Seattle and train Hope Solo during her 30-day U.S. Soccer suspension earlier this year, the federation has confirmed to SI.com.
Both Graeme Abel, the U.S. goalkeepers coach during this World Cup, and Philip Poole spent a total of six to seven days separately working with Solo during her suspension, the federation said.
Solo was suspended by U.S. Soccer on January 21 after she had been in a U.S. Soccer van in which the driver, Jerramy Stevens, her husband, was charged with a DUI. (Stevens was later sentenced to 30 days in jail, and served three.)
U.S. Soccer does not have any rules preventing its coaches from working with players who are suspended by the federation for personal conduct issues. The NFL is one U.S. sports league that does prohibit such activities, while other sports leagues and federations have varying rules (see below).
Neither U.S. Soccer nor Solo has previously revealed that USSF coaches had traveled to Seattle and worked with her during her suspension. The closest Solo came to mentioning it was in a post on her blog, in which she wrote: “I worked a lot on my technique kicking in my 30 days off.” She added that during that time she also started seeing a therapist for the first time and began meeting twice a week with an Eastern medicine healer.
U.S. Soccer officials gave Solo a list of requirements to fulfill during her 30-day suspension in order to be reinstated. That list has not been made public. When I asked U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati on January 26 why the federation imposed a 30-day suspension and whether an alcohol treatment program was being required for Solo, given a common theme of alcohol in Solo’s incidents, he said:
“Since we’ve got health-related issues here, we need to be a little bit careful about how we get into various parts of this, and you’ve touched on part of it. So that decision came after a series of discussions between [U.S. Soccer CEO] Dan Flynn, Jill [Ellis, the U.S. coach] and I. And 30 days seemed to be the appropriate suspension under our rules and given the circumstances.”
“There are a number of things that Hope is being asked to do in that 30 days,” Gulati continued in January. “We’re not going to get into the specifics of that, and then we’ll evaluate where things stand at the end of that period and make the decision going forward.”
Solo missed two U.S. friendlies in February, a 2-0 loss at France and a 1-0 win at England. U.S. Soccer reinstated Solo on February 21 at the end of the suspension. She then played in every game of the Algarve Cup from March 4 to 11 and has started every game since.
By all accounts, Solo has been a good teammate since returning to the U.S. fold in March, and her presence on the U.S. team has hardly been a distraction on the field in Canada.
Solo and the U.S. defense have gone 423 minutes without conceding a goal, a U.S. World Cup record, and she posted her 134th career victory against China, setting a new record for U.S. goalkeepers.
The U.S. women’s team was going through significant turnover at the position of goalkeepers coach earlier this year when Solo was suspended. On January 28, U.S. goalkeepers coach Paul Rogers resigned after five years in the job to take a position with the Houston Dynamo. He told SI.com at the time that his decision had nothing to do with Solo.
Abel and Poole were both candidates to replace Rogers. Abel ultimately got the job.
U.S. sports leagues and federations have different rules on what suspended players are prevented from doing.
In the NFL, the league’s personal conduct policy includes a ban for suspended players on all team activities and contact with team personnel (though players are allowed to play and practice in the preseason) for the duration of the suspension. During his four-game personal conduct suspension in 2010, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was not allowed to work out with Steelers coaches offsite.
(One exception in the NFL involves players who’ve been suspended for less than a year for substance abuse not involving PEDs. They’re prevented only from attending practices and games.)
In Major League Baseball, if a player is under suspension he may not be in the dugout or press box during the course of a game. But there are no specific policies against using team facilities. Minnesota Twins pitcher Ervin Santana, who’s currently serving an 80-game ban for PEDs, was allowed to work out at the team’s spring training facility and has also made some minor league starts as he prepares for the end of his suspension on July 4.
In the NBA, a suspended player cannot appear in any part of the arena or stands where his team is playing at any time before, during or after a game.
According to USA Track and Field, an athlete under suspension would not be eligible to receive any benefits normally available to athletes through USATF, including access to facilities or training stipends. However, suspended track and field athletes are free to work with a personal coach and train wherever that coach might be based. They are also eligible to keep receiving money from any personal endorsement deals.
Last October, when USA Swimming suspended Michael Phelps for six months after his second DUI arrest, the organization said he wouldn’t be paid his monthly stipend and would not be included on the U.S. team at this year’s world championships.