US players: Hope Solo’s return ‘completes our team’
Goalkeeper Hope Solo is back from suspension, and teammates are welcoming her return as they prepare for the Women’s World Cup.
Abby Wambach, Kelley O’Hara and Christie Rampone are serving as honorary starters for the Daytona 500 on Sunday, waving the green flag to start the ”Great American Race.”
Solo was reinstated by U.S. Soccer on Saturday after a 30-day suspension and was placed on the travel roster for next month’s Algarve Cup in Portugal.
”Excited to move on and win the World Cup,” Wambach said. ”We need all of our parts, and we are less of a team when she’s not in.”
Solo was suspended last month by the U.S. Soccer Federation after her husband, former Seattle Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens, was arrested in Southern California on suspicion of driving under the influence in a U.S. team van. Solo, in training camp at the time, was with Stevens when he pulled over.
”It’s going to be great to have her back,” O’Hara said at Daytona International Speedway. ”She kind of completes our team, you know. It’s not the same without here there. She brings so much experience and leadership within the back and just the team in general. It will be nice to have her back.”
U.S. women’s national team coach Jill Ellis will announce a 23-player tournament roster before the Algarve Cup, which starts on March 4. The United States opens against Norway.
The team was 1-1 in matches during Solo’s absence. U.S. Soccer said Saturday she was reinstated after a ”formal review.”
Solo cheered on the national team in exhibition games in Europe. The United States fell 2-0 against France before beating England 1-0 with goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris starting in both games.
Solo’s suspension came at a critical time for the U.S. team, which is preparing for the Women’s World Cup this summer in Canada.
O’Hara, Rampone and Wambach insisted Solo’s situation was never a distraction.
”We’re very good at compartmentalizing things,” O’Hara said. ”I feel like the media makes a big deal about things that happen outside of the team or even directly within the team. It doesn’t really faze us. That’s one of our team strengths. We’re able to stay focused on the goal, which means you wake up every day and go to practice and get ready for June.”
Added Rampone: ”Control what you can control. Especially since we’re together so much, we can’t let anything distract us.”
Hope’s suspension was the latest off-field trouble for the 33-year-old Olympian, who is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the women’s game. Earlier this year, a judge dismissed two misdemeanor counts of domestic violence against her. The charges stemmed from a fight with her half-sister and 17-year-old nephew at a party in Washington state last June.
Solo had pleaded not guilty in that case and she continued to play for the U.S. team and with her National Women’s Soccer League team, the Seattle Reign, while awaiting trial.
Her last appearance in a match with the national team was in December, when she started in a scoreless draw against Brazil in the championship game of the 2014 International Tournament of Brasilia.
O’Hara and others kept in touch with Solo during her absence. Wambach said it’s time to move on.
”You get to choose what you put your focus and attention on,” Wambach said. ”As veterans, we’ve experienced the best of the best and the worst of the worst. We’re so good at being able to focus all of our attention on one thing, and right now, it’s winning the World Cup.”