Hope Solo hasn’t played in a competitive soccer game since last year’s Olympics, which ended for the United States in a penalty kicks loss to Sweden in the quarterfinals. After the game, Solo called the Swedish players “a bunch of cowards” for their defensive-minded tactics, which in turn led the U.S. Soccer Federation to suspend her for six months and terminate her national team contract. That, combined with the shoulder-replacement surgery she had during the suspension, led many to assume that her career was over, at least on soccer’s biggest stages.
Solo says such assumptions are wrong. Speaking Monday to the Associated Press in Amsterdam, where she’s being honored for being named to this year’s World XI team by her fellow players, Solo said she hopes to play again, professionally and for the U.S. national team.
“Let’s be clear, a goalkeeper peaks a little bit later in their career, so I feel like I have many years ahead of me if that opportunity arises,” she said. “I’m very happy with my career should I walk away from the game today, but I’m not one to retire. I have not retired.”
She added that her “shoulder is doing great.”
“I have a completely metal arm now — I’m bionic,” Solo said. “I’m better now than I have been in the last 10 years, so I’m pain free and I have more range of motion. I’m very happy with my health right now and I’m very happy with my fitness. I’m ready to get back.”
As for her next destination, Solo said earlier this year that she was unlikely to return to the Seattle Reign, for which she had played since 2013. In June, news broke that French club Olympique de Marseille reportedly was pursuing Solo for the 2017-18 season, which begins in September. But nothing has yet to come of that, apparently.
“I’ve had great opportunities and great contract offers to go back overseas and play,” Solo told the AP. “Possibly you’ll see me overseas next year.”
Solo also said that she hopes to play for the United States at the 2019 World Cup, when she’ll be 38 years old. The prospect seems unlikely not only because of her age but because she continues to repeat her claim that she was fired from the U.S. national team because she was part of a group of players who last year filed a wage-discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“My contract got terminated because of my fight for equal pay with the United States Soccer Federation,” Solo told the AP, repeating this claim publicly for at least the third time. “I’m not sure until the lawsuit is over, that anything will change that.”
U.S. Soccer officials have not responded to this specific claim, instead pointing to an accumulation of “past incidents” involving Solo, including her dismissal from the 2007 World Cup team over critical comments she made about teammate Briana Scurry; her 2014 arrest on domestic violence charges over an incident involving her half sister and nephew; a 2015 incident in which her husband, former NFL player Jerramy Stevens, was arrested for DUI while driving a USSF-rented vehicle in which Solo was a passenger; and the “cowards” quote about the Swedish players.
The other four players who joined Solo in filing the EEOC complaint — Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe — have not been sanctioned by U.S. Soccer. In April, the U.S. women’s soccer players’ union and the sport’s governing body agreed to a five-year collective bargaining agreement, improving standards for the national team and pro league and ensuring labor harmony through the next World Cup and Olympics. The EEOC complaint is in the process of being investigated, according to the organization’s website.
“I’ve always wanted to play in the 2019 World Cup,” Solo said. “I’m in the best shape of my life in terms of my shoulder. I feel great. Should [U.S. Soccer] welcome me back, then I will be in the goal competing and hopefully bringing back another World Cup trophy, but it’s highly unlikely they are going to ask for me to come back. But I’m here, guys.”