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Monday, August 13, 2012
Hope Solo details benching in 2007 World Cup


U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo was benched in the semifinals of the 2007 World Cup by then-U.S. women's soccer coach Greg Ryan in favor of Briana Scurry. The U.S. lost the match 4-0 to Brazil. Afterward, Solo spoke her mind to a reporter, saying in part: "[Starting Scurry] was the wrong decision. And I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. And the fact of the matter is, it's not 2004 anymore." This is what ensued in the aftermath:

Editor's note: contains mature language.

Soon we got back on the bus to ride through the night to Shanghai, where we would play a third-place game in a few days. Some people slept. Others checked their phones, talking to family back in the States, where it was still morning.

Carli Lloyd texted with her trainer, James, in New Jersey. She turned to me. "Hope, James says this is blowing up back home," she said.

"It's all over the news."

"What is?"

"Your interview."

For the rest of the ride, I stared out the window, watching the lights rush past in the dark night, replaying my words in my head.

I had said what I thought about Greg's decision -- I assumed he had told the press his reasoning for starting Bri. I felt justified in stating my point of view.

Once we got to the Westin Shanghai, Carli and Marci Miller -- whom I roomed with in Shanghai -- huddled with me in front of the computer. We found the interview on ESPN and watched it. "It's not so bad, is it?" I asked them. "That was meant for Greg, not Bri."

Carli and Marci hesitantly agreed. No, it wasn't horrible.

"Well," I said, trying to laugh, "I guess it's only a matter of time before I get hell from the older players."

Right then, my phone rang. I looked at Carli and Marci. "I guarantee you this is them," I said as I picked up.

It was our team captain Kristine Lilly. She said the veterans wanted to talk to me and asked if I would come to their room.

I walked down the hall. By now it was after midnight. I pushed open the door of Lil's room and saw the veterans grimly waiting for me. Kate Markgraf stood by the door. Lil, Shannon Boxx, Christie Pearce Rampone, Abby, and Bri sat on the beds. I walked across to the other side of the room and leaned against the wall.

They had seen the interview. I was told that I had, in their opinion, basically committed treason.

"Well, I'm a professional athlete -- of course I believe I could make a difference on the field," I said. "Just like you guys do," I added. "We should all believe we can make a difference or else why are we professional athletes?"

Kate Markgraf turned on me. "I can't even f---ing look at you," she said. "Who the f--- do you think you are? I can't even be in the same room with you."

She walked out and slammed the door behind her. Wow, I thought, that seems overly dramatic.

Now there were five. I stood and listened as each had her say.

They told me that you don't throw a teammate under the bus, that I had broken the code, that I had betrayed the team. I was told that I had ruined everything this team was built on, and that I had torn down what Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm and Lil and all the players who paved the way for us had created.

"This isn't about Julie Foudy or anyone else from the past," I said. "This is about our team. I would never do anything to hurt Bri. I have so much respect for Bri. But as a professional athlete, I'm confident that I would have made a difference in the game. I believe in myself enough to know that I would have made an impact.

"I think all of us believe in ourselves enough to think we can affect the outcome."

"Are you even going to apologize to Bri?" someone asked.

I turned toward Bri. I wanted her to know that I wasn't trying to hurt her, not after everything she had done for me when my father died. I felt backed against the wall.

Bri spoke first. She told me I had hurt her very much. She said she had tried to be there for me when my father died and was shocked that I would do this to her.

"I'm sorry Bri," I said. "I really am. I didn't mean to hurt you. My comments were directed at Greg, not at you."

I could tell how awkward I sounded. I wanted to have a private moment with Bri but I was in a room full of angry women who demanded that I perform a public act of contrition. Everything felt forced. Staged.

"Hope, we've heard your side of things," Christie said.

"You've heard how we feel. So how are we going to move forward and make this better?"

I looked at Pearcie with gratitude. She was the only one trying to lead us through the mess, to cut through the harsh words and angry feelings. The group decided that the way to move forward was for me to apologize to the entire team. They told me there would be a team meeting in the morning.

I went back to my room for a few tortured hours. I couldn't sleep. I cried most of the night and tried to figure out what to do.

All my life I've said exactly what I thought and stood up for myself. But now I was in a firestorm for doing just that. I felt terrible that I had hurt Bri. I vowed to talk to her in the morning and try to make things right between us.

The next morning when I stepped into the room, I saw Bri standing by the door and I paused. "Bri, do you have a second?" I said. "Please know I would never want to hurt you. I have so much respect for you."

She turned away from me. "Hope, I can't even look at you right now," she said.

OK, I thought. This is going to take time. This is going to be on Bri's terms. I have to be patient.

I walked into the room and felt twenty sets of eyes bore into me.

I was on stage. I said the same thing I had said to the smaller group in Lil's room the night before. "I never meant to hurt Bri," I said. "My comments were directed at Greg and his reasoning. I said I would have made those saves because I truly have to believe I could have made a difference."

I didn't see any sign of support. I saw hostility and anger. Hatred, even. Hard words were flung at me.

"You don't sound sincere."

"Do you even care what you've done?"

"How can you turn your back on the team?"

"Do you know how horrible you looked on television, pouting on the bench?"

"You've been feeling sorry for yourself since Greg told you that you weren't starting. Some of us sit on the bench every game."

I looked at my few close friends, hoping for a sympathetic face, but all I saw were blank, cold stares. I looked at the faces of the younger players, like Aly Wagner and Cat Whitehill and Leslie Osborne and Lori Chalupny and Tina Frimpong, my former UW teammate. I had become a pariah. Everyone was following Lil and Abby. No one would stand up for me. Only Carli seemed to have any sympathy in her expression.

"You haven't even apologized to Bri," someone said.

I had already apologized to Bri in Lil's room the night before. I had just spoken to her again outside the door. But I apologized to Bri again, in front of everyone. I had maintained my composure through most of the meeting, but as I spoke, my voice broke. "I'm sorry Bri," I said. "I never meant to hurt you. I'm sorry that I did."

I was asked to leave the room while my fate was decided.

Eventually, I was informed that my teammates had deemed my apology insincere. I needed to be punished. They would not allow me to play in the third-place game. I couldn't even go to the game. I couldn't eat meals with the team. I was suspended. They also decided that I needed to call Julie Foudy to apologize to her for tarnishing the legacy she helped build, which seemed absurd to me.

Later that night, my phone buzzed. It was a text from Carli. "How are you? I'm thinking about you. Hang in there."

I felt the warmth of her embrace. I still had a friend in the world.

Excerpted from SOLO: A Memoir of Hope (co-written with Ann Killion) on sale Aug. 14 from HarperCollins.