After a monthlong
team hiatus, Solo says, she wasn't sure she wanted to return to "what I saw
as a sorority-style atmosphere" when the squad reconvened in December. But
U.S. Soccer officials made it clear that Solo wouldn't face further discipline,
and the team had a new coach in Sundhage. "I had a choice," says
Sundhage. "I could just ignore it and say I wasn't part of it. But I wanted
to respect all the feelings that were flying around. The other thing I said [to
the team] was, 'Do you want to win?' Yes. 'Then we need goalkeepers.'" It
was a healthy dose of straight talk (translation: grow up and play) from a
coach who set the tone in her first team meeting by singing Bob Dylan's The
Times They Are A-Changin'.
"Fake it till
you make it," one of Solo's friends told her. And so she did, smiling her
way through the December camp and a tournament in China in January. "Then
I'd go home and take a deep breath and feel like I could be myself without
being judged," Solo says. "It got to the point where I really believed
it. All of a sudden these smiles were genuine, and I think my heart changed.
Time has really been the great healer. I know a lot of us have done some deep
soul-searching. I'm genuinely enjoying my teammates again, which I never
thought was possible."
Solo and Wambach
both say they have become experts in agreeing to disagree, and time has
softened their stances on the World Cup conflict, but only somewhat. Wambach
stands by the decision to keep Solo off the squad for the third-place match
("It would have affected my ability to prepare for the game," she
says), but she allows that it was "probably an overreaction" to tell
Solo not to come to the stadium. For her part, Solo maintains that her remarks
after the loss to Brazil were heartfelt while acknowledging the damage they
caused. "I believe everything I said," she insists. "Did I want to
disrespect my teammates or Bri? No. Do I regret hurting them? There are days
when I feel bad, and it's hard to keep my head up. I broke every code this team
has been built on. I realize that."
LAST MONTH, a few
days before a game between the U.S. and Canada, Solo and Scurry finally sat
down across from each other, for 2 1/2 hours at a café in Washington, D.C.
"It's been long overdue," Solo said the next morning, her eyes still
red. "I'd been scared to have that conversation." Solo says it was
Scurry who'd done more than any other teammate to support her when her father
died, who'd stared into her eyes as Solo rocked back and forth on her bed—I
can't do this!—and said, over and over again, Yes you can, Hope. In the first
game after Jeffrey Solo's death, Scurry had put his initials on her goalie
gloves and dedicated the match to him.
Jeffrey had been
Hope's first soccer coach, in Richland, Wash., and the source of her love for
sports. But he was also a mystery. Hope knows he lived in New York City and
Boston, fought in Vietnam and changed his surname twice over the years, leading
her to believe he was part of the witness-protection program. As his marriage
to Hope's mother, Judy, foundered, he absconded with eight-year-old Hope and
her 11-year-old brother, Marcus, to Seattle for three weeks. Then, after a
decade of almost no contact, Hope and Jeffrey reconnected during her four years
at the University of Washington. Though living in a tent in the woods, he
attended all of Hope's home games, and she would take macaroni and cheese and
join him for long talks. "The World Cup was the only thing that kept me
together after my dad passed away," says Solo, who scattered his ashes in
front of her goal before games in China. "I played that World Cup for him
and him alone."
Ernest, had died two months before the 2004 Olympics, and she says she
understood Solo's fragile emotional state during the World Cup. But as Scurry
explained to Solo during their conversation last month, she couldn't fathom why
Solo had put herself above the team, why she had disrespected the very players
who'd made it possible for her to have a career playing soccer. "We've
always tried to be positive role models and show girls how to be good sports,
gracious in victory and defeat," Scurry says. "Her comments were
difficult to deal with, but one person's opinion doesn't define who I am or
what I've done for this team."
It's a confusing
time for Solo, to say nothing of her teammates. Yes, she thinks the U.S.'s
traditional harmony-first culture needs to change. "We don't have to be
friends to respect what somebody does on the field," she says. "I truly
hope women's sports can get to that point. We like to say we are, but I don't
think we're there yet."
But then Solo has
conversations like the one with Scurry, and it's hard to imagine that women's
teams won't always be different from men's. The two goalkeepers talked about
forgiveness, about their fathers, about their respect for each other. Scurry
said she'd always thought Solo was a good kid before the World Cup, and after
the speechless Solo's eyes welled up, Scurry broke the silence: "Hope, I
still think you're a good kid."
At the end they