Timing is everything. For Hope Solo, arguably the greatest United States women’s goalkeeper of all time, however, her time is unceremoniously up after a nightmare Olympic campaign.
She was suspended for six months this week after an astonishing outburst in Brazil following a shock defeat to eventual winners Sweden, leaving her international career in tatters.
At the next World Cup she will be 38. The end is nigh but it should have come sooner.
It could have come when news broke of the domestic violence assault case two years ago which is yet to be resolved.
Perhaps when she was caught drink driving with her husband in a US Soccer-branded van last January, the axe should have fallen then.
But she was at the top of her game. Fast forward to this month however and some patchy displays seem to suggest otherwise.
A nightmare against Colombia in the final group match set alarms bells ringing and US Soccer chief Sunil Gulati, a man with a penchant for dithering, saw the perfect opportunity to kick Solo into touch. His reason? Well, she called Sweden a bunch of cowards.
Such was Solo’s ire after seeing her gold medal dream ruined by an ultra-defensive Swedish side, her words were not minced afterwards.
And to be fair, further interviews that evening were far more circumspect. Yet Gulati and chums had seen, and heard, enough.
“The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players,” Gulati said.
Fair enough. Though there’s much more to this.
Hope Solo has been granted personal leave and will be unavailable for today's match. Andi Tostanoski has been signed as a GK replacement.— Seattle Reign FC (@SeattleReignFC) August 27, 2016
Solo was, after all, an athlete trying to dissect one of the most disappointing results of her career. Players aren’t always at their most cognizant moments after a match.
Thierry Henry found it difficult to adjust to the American system of allowing journalists into the dressing room straight after matches. The France legend often came off moody and irritable when a microphone was stuck in his face.
The same can be said for Solo, a passionate, proud player who clearly has enough troubles off the field to keep her paymasters busy.
“I could not be the player I am without being the person I am, even when I haven’t made the best choices or said the right things,” said the keeper who has also taken an indefinite break from domestic soccer.
Team-mates have been disappointed with her outbursts. Few will shed tears. Coward-gate, claims Gulati, was the straw which broke the camel’s back.
Though from the outside looking in, it seems like an open goal of an opportunity to get rid of a potentially disruptive character, especially at a time when women players are fighting like mad in a tense battle with US Soccer bosses over the contentious details of the current CBA agreement.
“There is definitely a cumulative effect when it comes to Hope,” a highly-placed source told Sport360. “Yet undoubtedly US Soccer have handled it very poorly.”
You can bring her dubious back catalogue of hits into question – yet her two most-high profile blemishes earned her no more than a slap on the wrists.
US Soccer stood by Solo after a drunken altercation with her nephew which resulted in a domestic violence charge. The details remain unproven in a court of law, even if some of the evidence makes her look anything but a role model.
But play in a World Cup and Olympics with all that hanging over her head? No problem.
Indeed, just two months later, US Soccer were making a very public song and dance about her race to win the clean sheet record.
She was soon given the captain’s armband.
A 30-day ban was rightly dished out at the start of 2015 following the drink drive incident.
Yet, crucially, now her star has fallen, the bungling suits have the perfect cue to act – even if they’re blatantly lying about the real reasons. How nice of them.
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