Days before the U.S. national team plays its first Women’s World Cup game, Hope Solo, the squad’s former goalkeeper, wasn’t holding back in her assessment of Jill Ellis, saying the team’s coach “cracks under the pressure quite a bit.”
“Jill — she’s not the leader I wish her to be,” Solo said in a BBC discussion. “She relies heavily on her assistant coaches. She cracks under the pressure quite a bit. But oftentimes it doesn’t matter because the quality of the players on the U.S. team is superb. ... We have a rich history of winning; we have a winning tradition. It doesn’t matter oftentimes who is coaching us because we will find a way to win. That is rich in the history of our game. The United States knows how to find a way to win in spite of who the coach is.”
The 37-year-old was part of the U.S. team that won the 2015 World Cup with Ellis as coach. But the outspoken Solo, now working for the BBC, and U.S. Soccer have not been on friendly terms since her contract was terminated and she drew a six-month suspension in 2016 for calling the Swedish national team a “bunch of cowards” for its conservative approach during their Olympics match.
In that interview and in a BBC Sport column published Friday, Solo criticized Ellis’s methods, saying the coach would not go over mistakes by players “because she thinks it might affect their confidence.” Solo added that Ellis “told me time and again she didn’t want to hurt anybody’s confidence, so we won’t look at goals and we won’t look at defensive mistakes.”
That isn’t surprising, given that she called Ellis a “poor leader and bad tactician” in an interview with “60 Minutes Sports” two years ago. She settled a grievance with U.S. Soccer in 2017 but said last year that she would not play again for the national team until disparities in pay between the men’s and women’s teams are resolved.
Since then, she has been an active advocate for equality between the teams and has not played professionally, either, in U.S. Soccer’s NWSL. Solo and 28 former teammates, including Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, had filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the federation, but a judicial panel ruled recently that the lawsuits will not be combined. She kept up that criticism last week, telling the BBC that “male chauvinism is entrenched in our global federation, and these disparities are a reflection of that. We shouldn’t have to take these issues to courts and send letters to FIFA [which stages the World Cup].”
As for her playing career, “it’s hard to retire when you got fired,” she said a year ago, referring to her suspension and contract termination.
“If Jill came to me today, Jill Ellis, the coach of the women’s team, and said, ‘Hope, we need a goalkeeper’ — which they do — ‘can you come back and help us win the World Cup?’ I’d say to her, ‘Are you guys abiding by federal law?' That’s the only question I have to ask back and see what the answer is," she said. "We all know that they are not abiding by federal law, so I cannot stand for that at this point.”
Alyssa Naeher, who was part of that 2015 World Cup team, is slated to be in goal for the United States when it faces Thailand in the team’s 2019 World Cup opener Tuesday in Reims, France. “I can only control me, be the best version of myself, making sure I’m a good teammate,” Naeher said late last month (via the New York Daily News). “I try to get better each day. The biggest thing is learning and never stop learning. Every goalkeeper brings her own personality to the job.”
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