KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Why is U.S. Soccer allowing Hope Solo to play in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for next year’s Women’s World Cup? It’s a question that has drawn plenty of attention ahead of Solo’s court date in Washington on Nov. 4 for a fourth-degree misdemeanor charge stemming from her role in a disturbance with family members in June.
Three weeks ago, as the NFL’s Ray Rice case became a national media storm and raised questions about a possible double standard for Solo, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati issued this statement:
“From the beginning, we considered the information available and have taken a deliberate and thoughtful approach regarding Hope Solo’s status with the national team. Based on that information, U.S. Soccer stands by our decision to allow her to participate with the team as the legal process unfolds. If new information becomes available we will carefully consider it.”
In making phone calls this week, I’m told the federation took a couple specific things into account when deciding to let Solo keep playing. One, that the charge is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, not a felony. And two, the facts of the Solo case are still in dispute, as is not the situation with some of the NFL’s recent incidents. Solo says she’s innocent, and she exercised her right not to speak to police without her lawyer present for the original police report. As a result, her side of the story is not included in what was publicly released.
Solo did speak to U.S. Soccer about what happened, though, and the federation decided to let the legal process play out, which will happen next month. Last week Solo's former U.S. teammate, goalkeeper Jillian Loyden, became the first current or former Solo teammate to say publicly that she thought Solo should not be playing right now. None of Solo's current U.S. teammates has questioned her spot on this World Cup qualifying team.
Solo played all 90 minutes for the U.S. in Wednesday’s 1-0 opening-game victory against Trinidad and Tobago, adding to her U.S. record of shutouts by notching her 74th.
Other news and notes from the tournament:
• Trinidad and Tobago played surprisingly well in the 1-0 loss to the U.S., overcoming the challenges that came when the team arrived in Dallas with just $500 for a training camp last week. Coach Randy Waldrum issued a plea for help on Twitter to feed his players, and more than $15,000 in donations came in, including $1,300 from a Haiti team that has its own serious financial issues.
T&T has now gotten some money from its country’s ministry of sport, and the Haiti donation is being returned. But this is a clear example of what FIFA corruption can cause. After Trinidad and Tobago’s Jack Warner was ousted as a FIFA vice president and TTFA president, Trinidad’s federation was $6 million in debt, and that has led to some of the problems we’ve seen with its women’s team here.
• Another layer to T&T and Haiti's tournament stories: Waldrum, who also coaches the NWSL's Houston Dash, and Haiti coach Shek Borkowski are not getting paid a dime for coaching these teams. Both men are trying to break into coaching on the international level, and they feel like if they can take their teams to the World Cup that would be worth doing these jobs pro bono. Waldrum added that he sees the sacrifices his T&T players are making to be here and think his own sacrifice pales in comparison.
• Heading into its opener Thursday night against Costa Rica, the biggest question for Mexico is which team we’ll see, the one that beat the U.S. in a stunning semifinal upset four years ago or the one that got outscored 12-0 by the U.S. in two games last month.
Mexico coach Leo Cuellar is disappointed with the lack of playing time for Mexican players in the NWSL and the lack of games for the national team so far this year. He thinks that’s the main reason why Mexico struggled so much against the U.S. last month. He said this is a crucial moment for his program to build some momentum and get a ticket for their second straight World Cup.
• One thing that rarely gets mentioned with the U.S. women’s team is its preparation against boys teams. The U.S. women scrimmaged against one of Sporting Kansas City’s boys academy teams on Friday, playing against a group ranging from ages 14 to 16.
The U.S. women won the scrimmage convincingly, but Megan Rapinoe said it was a good challenge against the right age of players to help the USWNT. Alex Morgan said she has been training with a boys team in Houston before this tournament, adding that it’s helped her get better technically.