Olympic gold the goal for Hope Solo
Even Hollywood could not have conjured up a better name for a goalkeeper.
After starring for the gold medalists at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Hope Solo did go Hollywood a bit, putting herself in the glare of the spotlight, for better and for worse.
Solo introduced herself to mainstream America with a stint on "Dancing With the Stars" last fall. She grabbed recent headlines for the wrong reasons, receiving a warning from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for failing a drug test.
Asked about balancing distractions with her soccer career during a conference call last week, Solo said: "My life since I was little has been one long distraction. It has given me a lot of strength. It has given me a lot of fortitude. A lot of challenges have given me the opportunity to really [diffuse] the outside distractions and put my passion on the playing field. From the time I was little, all my freedom, all my happiness, all my fight came from playing the game I love and that's what has allowed me to do the best that I can do.
"It has allowed me to get as far as I've got. I'm grateful for those challenges off the field. After the World Cup, we're talking challenges like Hollywood. I guess it is the way people perceive me. Those things can be distractions to certain types of athletes, but all my life I have been able to handle it. It only gives me extra fight to keep pushing and to prove everybody wrong."
Solo, who had shoulder surgery in the fall of 2010, is ready for the challenge.
"She is more experienced. She has gone through ups and downs because of injuries and so forth," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "She is better than in 2008. Right now, she is in a good place. It is important that she plays well."
No one had to remind the goalkeeper, who turns 31 Monday, about that. Solo is at home with the team.
"This is what my life is about. This is where my heart is. This is where my passion lies," she said. "All the other nonsense . . . doesn't make it easier on my end. It isn't part of my lifestyle. Getting back to an environment like this and I'm talking about a big tournament where you feel the nerves, you feel the positive energy, that's what I live for. This is what I know and I love. Of course, it's good to be back, but let's be honest, I never really left."
As demanding as she has been on her teammates, Solo has been harder on herself.
"I am never happy at the end of a game if we give up a goal," she said. "With that said, I have to balance it because I am very proud of our team when we play a hard-fought game and we come out on top."
But . . .
"I am a goalkeeper and my responsibility is to keep the ball out of the back of the net," Solo said. "So when the ball goes into the net, I am not doing my job. I take responsibility for that and I take it incredibly personal."