Thẻ: Hope Solo

Sundhage takes over with Hope Solo still on U.S. squad

Pia Sundhage is still finding her way. Although she was about to board a flight Thursday to attend the NCAA Division I women’s soccer championship, the Swede wasn’t sure of her destination’s whereabouts.

“This country is big so I have to learn,” says the U.S. women’s national team’s first foreign coach, en route to College Station, Texas.

The Americans, however, have a lot to learn from Sundhage — the all-time leading scorer in Swedish national team history — and will get their first crash course. She’s only been in the country for a week and has scheduled a five-day training camp starting this weekend.

“It’s been absolutely wonderful. It helps that I’ve been around this game for so long,” says Sundhage, 47, who also served as a scout for the U.S. team (2004), coached the Boston Breakers of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA, 2003), and most recently was an assistant coach for China (2007).

The minicamp marks the run-up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where the Americans hope to redeem themselves after a disappointing third-place finish at the 2007 World Cup.

First, they must get through the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Final Round qualifying tournament, being held April 2-13 in Chihuahua, Mexico. Two countries from the six-team tournament will advance.

U.S. players will gather Saturday through Wednesday at Home Depot Center outside Los Angeles to prepare for the Four Nations tournament in China next month.

“It will be nice to meet them face-to-face. I want them to know how I want to run the drills,” Sundhage says.

The 24-player minicamp roster includes 16 players from the World Cup squad. Goalkeepers Hope Solo and Briana Scurry, both of whom were at the center of a media firestorm at the World Cup that contributed to the firing of then-coach Greg Ryan, are on the roster, too.

“It is a little difficult to relive that. Mentally, I was full of all sorts of emotions,” Solo told AP, referring to her fiery comments after the U.S. lost 4-0 to Brazil in the semifinals when she was benched in favor of Scurry. “The World Cup was the only thing that kept me together after the death of my father (in June), kept me fighting and together and dedicated to the game.…

“I know I have some friendships to rebuild and teammates to rebuild relationships with. But there is nothing I can go back and do. Never did I intend to put down a teammate, and that is the thing that hurts the most. I always have respected and will respect Bri.”

Kristine Lilly, the 36-year-old captain who has yet to decide if she will retire, will not be at camp.

“I talked to people who know these players very well and got their input,” Sundhage says. “I have a little bit of a game plan where I find the right players.”

Some of those voices she’ll rely on include former national coaches April Heinrichs and Ryan.

“Pia is a fantastic person,” says Ryan, who was on Heinrichs’ 2004 Olympic staff. “I’m going to do anything I can to help her out as she gets started with the team. She’ll bring some great qualities and a different approach on and off the field. The players will probably thrive under Pia’s leadership.”

Sundhage, still putting together her staff, considers all roster spots open. She wants the team to take a more cerebral approach.

“You always want to run at people and score goals,” Sundhage says. “I want to tweak that a little bit and be smarter to find a better moment and a better chance.

“Attacking soccer is rhythm. You actually slow down the game a little bit. It takes a while. You have to be patient.”

“Decision-making is crucial if you want to keep your position.”

Hope Solo Back At Home

All of our area’s soccer players would love to make the U.S. National team one day and play in the World Cup or the Olympics.

Well, one former Tri-Cities player has already done that.

Hope Solo was a star for Richland back in the late 90’s.

And on Tuesday night, she came back to town to watch her Bombers play in the state tournament.

After Richland won 2-0, Solo spoke to the team and took lots of time to sign autographs and visit with fans.

She says she hasn’t been back to watch a Richland soccer game in several years.

And she adds that she’s happy to visit with all of the area’s future soccer stars.

Hope Solo says, “It’s long overdue that i’ve made it back and I’ve reached back out and given back to the community, so, I mean, these people support me and they support my career and the least I can do is sit here and sign autographs for 30 minutes. the sport has grown tremendously, especially here in the Tri-Cities, you know, I hope that one day I can get back to the program and to these kids and hopefully come back and coach.”

While Solo is popular for being a Richland star and playing for the national team, she might be best known for what happened earlier this year at the World Cup.

In case you don’t remember, she was benched right before the semifinal game against Brazil, and after the Americans lost 4-0, she spoke out against the decision to keep her on the bench.

Just one month after those comments, U.S. coach Greg Ryan was let go.

But solo had very little to say about her place on the national team.

She was asked, “What has it been like personally for you, bouncing back, I mean, now that ryan’s gone…”

And Solo said, “I’m not going to talk about the World Cup, but its good to be home.”

Solo says she’ll be in the Tri-Cities for a couple of months.

And she said she hopes to make it to the Bombers state quarterfinal game on Saturday afternoon.

USA 1-0 Brazil (AET)

Carli Lloyd scored in the sixth minute of extra time as the United States won their second straight Olympic women’s soccer gold medal with a 1-0 victory over Brazil on Thursday.

Since women’s soccer first featured at the Olympics in 1996, the USA have now claimed three gold and one silver medal, while Brazil won their second silver.

But while Lloyd scored the winning goal on Thursday, the hero for the Americans was goalkeeper Hope Solo, an ironic twist after last year’s controversy at the World Cup.

After losing to the US in the gold-medal match in the Athens Olympics, Brazil exacted revenge on Team USA at the 2007 World Cup, snapping their 51-match winning streak with a humiliating 4-0 triumph in the semi-finals.

The loss was highly controversial for the US as Solo was benched in favour of veteran Briana Scurry by then-coach Greg Ryan, who was promptly fired following the Americans’ third-place finish.

Solo, who made a number of comments suggesting that she should have started in net and would have made the saves, came up big for the Americans against the favoured Brazilians on Thursday.

Brazil controlled most of the possession but were unable to generate too many chances as the United States focused on keeping things tight early on.

Leading scorers Cristiane and Marta dazzled with the ball down the sidelines but could not get anything going down the middle of the field as the US forced long-distance shots or ambitious crosses from the wings which Solo was able to deal with.

Solo made the best save of the match in the 72nd minute when Marta worked herself free on the left side of the penalty area and fired a hard left-footed shot from close range that the US goalkeeper just got a right hand on before the ball was cleared away.

Angela Hucles had the Americans’ best chance in normal time, blasting a shot from 20 yards away that was stopped by Brazil’s sprawling goalkeeper Barbara in the 86th minute.

After the match went to extra time, Lloyd put the US on top as she received a pass on the left side of the 18-yard box and her left-footed shot beat Barbara and found the back of the net just inside the right post.

Brazil, who had 13 corner kicks in the game, supplied heavy pressure over most of the game’s final 24 minutes but attempted too many individual moves against multiple defenders to generate a clear opportunity.

With time winding down, Marta made a run down the right wing and delivered a dangerous cross into the box, but Solo was there to deflect the ball away from danger with oncoming Brazilian forwards in the area.

In the bronze-medal match, Fatmire Bajramaj scored a pair of goals as two-time defending World Cup champions Germany beat Japan, 2-0.

Bajramaj put Germany on top in the 69th minute, knocking home a rebound from a tough angle on the left side of the six-yard box. She scored again in the 87th minute to give the Germans some insurance.

Japan were denied their first-ever medal in the event, while Germany have now earned the bronze in three consecutive Olympics.

Hope Solo’s hands save the day on a slippery day for U.S. Olympic athletes

BEIJING – Hope Solo’s sure hands made up for the butterfingers of U.S. relay runners on a seesaw day for Americans at the Olympics.

Goalkeeper Solo punched a ball that was flying toward the net to save a 1-0 victory over Brazil for the women’s soccer team. With a gold medal hanging around her neck, she salvaged not only her reputation but a brutal slate of performances on Thursday in Beijing.

By fending off a flurry of shots by (Ital)Mah-Velous(Ital) Marta, Solo vindicated herself 10 months after she was ostracized by her teammates for her blunt criticism of their 4-0 loss to Brazil in the 2007 World Cup semifinals.

That was an ugly time for U.S. women’s soccer and women’s sports. Solo spoke her mind about a coaching decision to replace her with Briana Scurry. She was absolutely right, but her teammates took it hard and shunned her as if they were members of a junior high clique. They wouldn’t even eat with her or fly home from China with her.

They regrouped under new coach Pia Sundhage and mended their relationship with Solo.

“A gold medal takes away all the pain in the world,” Solo said. “Honestly, I went through hell. Things change over the course of time. A lot came out. One thing was the role of female sports – you don’t have to be best friends.”

The U.S. track team could have used some teamwork.

At Bird’s Nest Stadium, both U.S. 4×100 relay teams dropped the baton between the third and fourth legs. They were eliminated before the qualifying round was over.

They’ll have to watch as Jamaica goes for world records and a sweep of gold medals in the sprint events.

What a shame, but this isn’t the Junior Olympics. The U.S. should have seamless exchanges by now, especially given its gaffes of the past.

It was an embarrassing case of deja vu for Lauryn Williams, who took off too soon and couldn’t get the baton from Marion Jones at the Athens Olympics. This time, Torri Edwards let the baton go too quickly after slapping it into Williams’ hand.

“Somebody somewhere has a voodoo doll of the U.S.,” Williams said. “I have no idea what could have gone wrong. Our plan was to come out here, have safe passes and lay it all on the track tomorrow.”

Instead, the baton clattered to the ground. Williams dashed back to retrieve it and finished the race out of a sense of duty, four seconds behind seventh-place Italy.

Here’s an opportunity for Elmer’s Glue to become an Olympic sponsor.

In the men’s race, Darvis Patton and Tyson Gay bungled their exchange. Poor Gay, who went from being a contender for three golds to a man who didn’t even run in a final.

“It’s kind of funny all the love I got last year and now I’m going home with no hardware,” Gay said.

Meanwhile, Jamaica cruised as Usain Bolt took the night off except to accept his gold for the 200. Jamaica’s national anthem was followed by a rendition of Happy Birthday. Bolt turned 22 Thursday.

Fans would love to see Bolt perform another world record dance and make Jacques Rogge eat his words. The International Olympic Committee chief reprimanded Bolt for his theatrics. Rogge needs a Tsingtao or three.

Fans – and NBC – love a little jiggle. Just look at the ratings for women’s beach volleyball, which concluded in pouring rain Thursday with a second straight gold medal for Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, who defeated China to win their 108th consecutive match.

Then the volleyball throwbacks – the ones who play indoors – upset Cuba’s women’s team to advance to the final for the first time since their coach, Jenny Lang Ping, led China to a gold-medal victory over the U.S. in 1984.

Women’s soccer

BEIJING — Amid the team bedlam of an Olympic gold medal celebration Thursday night, the star of the game, goalkeeper Hope Solo, peeled away to an empty part of the Workers Stadium pitch. No one was within 50 yards of her.

A solo operation, as is her style.

Moments earlier, the former University of Washington star and Richland native had pulled a cell phone from her stash bag next to the net she defended so magnificently in the U.S.’ 1-0 overtime win over Brazil.

So confident was she of a victory that she brought the phone onto the field so a call could be made immediately to her younger brother, Marcus, back in Washington. As alone as anyone could be in a stadium that held more than 50,000 people, she yelled into the phone.
Cameron Spencer / Getty Images
Goalkeeper Hope Solo celebrates as she speaks on her cell phone after the U.S. women’s soccer team defeated Brazil in the gold medal match to defend their 2004 Olympic title. Former UW star and Richland native Solo stashed the phone in the bag she kept next to the goal and called her younger brother back in Washington as soon as the match ended to tell him about the team’s victory.

“I told him, ‘We just won a damn gold medal!’ ” she said, laughing. “And bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep!”

Then she walked back to the sideline, where the entire team was being interviewed as a group by NBC. She passed them by, smiling, and went into the locker room. A few minutes later, she came out for her TV interview. Alone.

Hope Solo is a different kind of female team athlete. She feels no obligation to apologize for breaking the paradigm of the Mia Hamm/Brandi Chastain-led teams of previous Olympics and World Cups that offered an endearing, highly marketable chick-bonding camaraderie.

Following her for the rest of her days will be an outburst after a World Cup loss 10 months ago to these same Brazilians, also in China. She made national headlines by breaking the code among team sports, particularly with women, when she publicly criticized her coach and teammates.

Labeled a pariah, she was ostracized. Now she’s a hero. The U.S. is women’s soccer champion for the third time in four Olympics. Even she is bewildered.

“It’s like a storybook ending you see in Hollywood or fairy tales, yet it’s really playing out,” she said. “It’s almost too perfect an ending. Nothing ever goes right with my family and my life. This is too perfect. I can’t really swallow it right now.”

It is an astonishing reversal. Her talent, not her headstrong words, was the decisive factor. The soccer federation had fired coach Greg Ryan and replaced him with Pia Sundhage, a Swede who previously coached China’s national team. A transformation was under way.

“I think the team changed for the better,” Solo said. “A lot of truth came out. It’s kind of a new role for female sports — we don’t have to be best friends to collaborate, put our hearts out on the field and win a gold medal.”

Solo joined her teammates for hugs, hand slaps, the medal ceremony and all the interviews. But she seemed apart, too — similar to the male sports culture of the big home run hitter, the star wide receiver, the dominant basketball center. An alpha leader is not gender specific, nor is he or she the warmest.

Solo is one tough woman. And she was the difference.

The Brazilians completely outplayed the Americans. They had possession 58 percent of the match and had 16 shots on goal compared with 11 for the U.S., though it seemed the gap was wider.

Diving, leaping, stretching on a damp, slippery field, Solo was the formidable answer to the Brazilians’ superior speed and quickness.

“Hope Solo is a great player,” said Brazil’s head coach, Jorge Barcellos, “especially on the crossing balls. She has a very strong sense of herself.”
Luca Bruno / AP
Hope Solo snags a high ball amid a crowd of players, including teammates Lori Chalupny, left, and Heather Mitts, during the women’s soccer gold medal match Thursday against Brazil.

Played to a scoreless tie in regulation in a stadium that had no game clock (perhaps because the civilization is 5,000 old, what’s a couple of hours?), the match turned in the 96th minute when Carli Lloyd’s booming left-footed shot from 18 yards out slipped past Brazilian goalie Barbara.

Even the scorer worked out poetically — Lloyd was the teammate who stuck closest to Solo the previous summer when she was shunned by others.

Solo, 27, also spent much of last year grieving the loss of her father, Jeffrey, who died of heart failure at 69, just a week before his daughter was to put on the U.S. uniform for the first time. He was her first soccer coach. She scattered some of his ashes on the field before every World Cup game.

It was Sundhage, the new coach, who helped with the repairs to attitude and soul.

“Pia is a great leader,” Solo said. “She brought in new players and created a new style and system. You have to do that in order to win a medal.

“She let me be myself. No one was looking over my shoulder. I feel like my spirit is free.”

Thrilling as the medal was around her neck, Solo said it was incidental to the transformation.

“The medal has nothing to do with me feeling better,” she said. “The healing had already taken place. The healing had to take place in my heart and mind before I could even get to the medal.”

Sundhage understood that special talents require a different touch. That is never easy in a sports culture, male or female, that traditionally values equality and fraternity (or sorority) above all.

It doesn’t fit the stereotype, but much can be accomplished behind a solo leader.