Shame on Team USA for hiding Solo

Where is Hope Solo?

This was my first thought after arriving at a Team USA news conference to advance Thursday’s gold-medal soccer match against Japan, only to discover the always-interesting goalie had been left back at the athlete village.

To my crazy way of thinking, including your most recognizable and quotable athlete helps with your stated goal of growing your sport.

So why no Solo?

“These are our spokespeople,” was women’s national team press director Aaron Heifetz’s response.

Included were many of Team USA’s best and brightest — Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Christie Rampone, athletes who had played significant roles in what was an amazing, come-from-behind victory against Canada a couple of days ago in Manchester.

My problem was not with who was there, but with who was not, and why.

Solo was absent because she refuses to defer to the 1999 World Cup crew. She hints at what I am sure a good number of these athletes feels — you’ve had your turn, let us have ours.

Because while Solo was not approved for spokespeople duty, former Team USA star and 1999 darling Brandi Chastain was conducting interviews along with players after the news conference.

This would be like not bringing LeBron James to a USA Basketball presser and, instead, having Michael Jordan do interviews.

And this living in a Mia Hamm-Chastain coma is holding back soccer. They are too deferential to their past, and it is costing them a brighter future.

“I do think the original group of players who really shed light on this team will always have a claim to bear in this fight,” Wambach said.

“But that is what is so cool about this group … now the next generation is not just, ‘Oh, I know of Abby Wambach or I know of this player.’

"It’s the social media. Now you are talking about Alex Morgan, who I think is going to slide right into superstar status, and she already has, in my opinion. You have Hope Solo. We are crossing over into the mainstream culture, pop culture, and that is exciting.”

Wambach just said a mouthful there. She is right. Solo is one of the stars, with crossover appeal, with pop-culture name recognition, an athlete little girls want to be and guys want to date. So why wasn’t she there?

Double-secret Twitter probation is my guess.

Solo had been in a little trouble for, in a shocking twist, going after a USA soccer sacred cow — Chastain — again and again on Twitter. Solo had not liked Chastain’s commentary about a teammate, and said so in snarky, not awful, tweets.

@hopesolo its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game @brandichastain! #fb

@hopesolo Lay off commentating about defending and gking until you get more educated @brandichastain the game has changed from a decade ago #fb

@hopesolo Its important 2 our fans 2 enjoy the spirit of the olympics.Its not possible when sum1 on air is saying that a player is the worst defender!

@hopesolo I feel bad 4 our fans that have 2 push mute, especially bc @arlowhite is fantastic. @brandichastain should be helping 2 grow the sport #fb

The fact that anybody is mad about this is what is wrong with women’s sports. Do you realize how many times NBA players directly respond to Charles Barkley rips and how TNT then incorporates that back-and-forth in broadcasts? It is great TV.

It generates interest in the sport. Yet we have a couple of tame shots fired by Solo, and the WNT kills it and kills talk of it before what is sure to be a really good match against Japan.

This is a rematch of the US women’s loss to Japan in the World Cup. It is must-see soccer. This has a chance to be this team’s 1999 moment. This is its chance to proverbially rip off their shirts and inspire the next generation of American women’s soccer fans.

The Japanese did their part of building up the interest and intrigue. Their national coach was talking about not divulging secrets and not even thinking about silver. Even through a translator, you could see he was being a showman.

The US crew left Solo at home and let Chastain speak for them, which frankly is more offensive than anything Solo said on Twitter.

“This team has reinvented itself, and I think a lot of that is you had to separate yourself from the Mia Hamm generation and the Brandi Chastain, the ’99 group that became overnight sensations from winning,” Wambach said.

“At the end of the day, my point is, always with this group, you have to win to become legends, and you have to win to go down as legends, and hopefully we can do that (Thursday).”

And if they do, I hope Chastain will get out of the way and let it be their moment.

At very least, I hope we do not have to ask, "Where is Hope?"