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Solo's domestic abuse case looms as USWNT preps for World Cup opener

Hope Solo's lingering domestic abuse case was brought back into the forefront on Sunday, leaving a host of questions in the air as the USWNT prepares to kick off its Women's World Cup run.

WINNIPEG, Canada — The U.S. starts play in the Women’s World Cup on Monday, and so the dominant story on Sunday was… Hope Solo’s ongoing domestic abuse case? The one that hasn’t had a change of status since an appeal was filed on February 9?

You are correct. And there was reason for that. On Sunday, ESPN published a story in which the other side in the case—Solo’s half-sister, Teresa Obert, and her 18-year-old son—communicated in new public details (in interviews and depositions) their versions of what happened in the altercation that took place with Solo that night last June. In their version, Solo was the aggressor, not the victim that Solo has claimed to be in interviews with Good Morning America and ESPNW.

It’s a they-said, she-said, and the case is still working its way through the judicial process after originally being dismissed for procedural reasons in January. None of the parties looks good in the affair, and the whole thing is extremely sad. So let’s run through some questions that are in the air.

Is this news?

Hope Solo's legal trouble complicating World Cup coverage

Of course it’s news. Solo went public herself in the GMA and ESPNW pieces, and Sunday’s story was the first time we’ve heard Obert give a long interview with her side of the story. The depositions from Obert and her son also provided new public information. The ESPN piece was done by Mark Fainaru-Wada, one of the best investigators in journalism (League of Denial, Game of Shadows), much less sports journalism. All of this was fair game.

How well has U.S. Soccer handled the Solo case?

U.S. Soccer has drawn criticism in some quarters for choosing not to suspend Solo once she was arrested last year and the case went into motion. But I never had a problem with that decision. The most important facts in the case were and still are in dispute, and both sides have had moments where their credibility has been lacking. U.S. Soccer did suspend Solo (as it should have) for 30 days in February after she and her husband, Jerramy Stevens, were stopped in a U.S. Soccer van and Stevens was charged with DUI.

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How is the U.S. team handling the Solo news?

In an entirely reasonable way, given the situation. This is hardly the first time Solo’s off-the-field events have intruded on her teammates. They’re used to it, and they probably don’t enjoy it. But they’ve seen firsthand how she has been by all accounts a solid teammate since she returned to the U.S. fold in March. The World Cup starts for the U.S. on Monday. Of course they’re going to support her and focus on the game at hand.

ESPN report raises new questions on Hope Solo domestic violence case

“Hope’s my teammate,” said Abby Wambach on Sunday. “We are creating a bubble [inside the team], and we want nothing to penetrate that bubble right now.”

“You just block out distractions,” said Carli Lloyd. “Even in my personal life, everything is on hold. I’m going off the grid for a month. Everything can wait. My fiancée can wait, my friends can wait. To me, this is the only concern and the only focus. We’re 24 hours out from the first game.”

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Lloyd said she’s Solo’s roommate right now and hadn’t discussed the ESPN story with her.

Like most U.S. players, Alex Morgan has plenty of her own things to be concerned about. In her case, that means hoping her recovering left knee is healthy enough for her to get some minutes on the field Monday.

“I feel really good,” said Morgan, who hasn’t played in a competitive game for club or country in two months due to what she described on Sunday as a bone bruise. “Obviously, I have only been training with the team fully for the last couple days or the last week or so. I’ve been building into it. I think Jill [Ellis, the coach] has a good plan in place, and I trust that. Hopefully I’ll be 90 minutes game fit without the fatigue I might have. If not, hopefully I’ll feel 90-minute game fit within the next week or so.”

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Morgan doesn’t have time to think about Solo’s case right now, and that makes sense.

How is Solo responding to the report?

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Given the chance to provide her perspective, Solo didn’t make herself available to the media on Sunday. That’s reasonable too. Is it fair to wonder how she’s responding to it? Sure. At the U.S.’s media day in New York City a week and a half ago, Solo was in tears at one point after being asked questions by the media about her case. Then she gathered herself and did more interviews.

That said, Solo is also a veteran keeper who has played in every big U.S. game going back to the 2008 Olympics. Do I think she’ll be ready to play on Monday? You bet I do.

Can you understand why women’s soccer fans are annoyed with all the talk of the FIFA scandal and the Solo case before and during their sport’s signature event?

I certainly do. The biggest moment in women’s soccer happens only once every four years. The media coverage at the start of this Women’s World Cup is bigger than ever. And just when you’re ready to focus entirely on watching the best women’s soccer players the world has to offer, so much of the talk is about FIFA’s implosion and Solo’s court case.

Those are legit news stories, though. And it’s worth pointing out that the World Cup games will still be happening, and they’ll be aired in their entirety, and the talk will focus more on the soccer in the coming days unless those news stories have some big, important updates.

On Monday, I suspect, the big story will be USA-Australia.