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April 5, 2012 at 12:54 AM

A stop and chat with Hope Solo

hope solo.jpgPhoto credit: Ken Lambert, The Seattle Times

Sounders Women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo arrived to Seattle on Wednesday after a grueling 10-hour flight from Japan. Hours later she met her new club team for the first time and conducted some interviews. Here’s the transcript of her group session:

* * *

(How does is it feel to be here?) “I’m so excited to be here. I always knew at the end of the day I’d end up back here, whether it was when I retire or even before that. The end goal is to really help build the game here in a city that I love. That’s my ultimate goal, and hopefully win some games, as well — maybe a championship.”

(What do you make about the excitement around this team with the additions that you’ve made?) “It’s so good for the sport. I think it’s our obligation as female athletes to really grow the game — not just grow the women’s game, but grow the sport. So you get players in here like Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and it really helps bring (attention to) women’s soccer. Then you get (the fans) out to a game and see the rest of the players, and hopefully we bring an entertaining game to the city. It’s great. I’m excited to be here.”

(What role did you play in convincing other national team players to come to Seattle?) “I’ll never tell my secrets. (laughs) … They know how highly I speak of the city, obviously the Sounders team, the organization — so I think I rubbed off on a few people. But they’re just excited to be here. You have a couple Northwest girls. Megan Rapinoe played at Portland. So a lot of people are in love with the Northwest, as well.”

(Are you running on fumes after just flying in today?) “You guys I am so sorry. I’m so exhausted. I literally just got off a 10-hour flight from Japan. I’m so tired.”

(And you came out of a typhoon…) “Six earthquakes and a typhoon! Yes, I made it out alive, but I’m ready to go to bed and get some sleep, for sure.”

(Just your luck on road trips after that incident in Vancouver…) “You know you visit so many cities across the world, you’re going to have good things and bad things happen.”

(What’s it like to finally play here in your home state with friends and family here?) “I haven’t played in Seattle since I graduated from the Huskies. It’s been a long time. I owe it to my fans. I owe it to the city that really helped progress my career. I don’t think I would’ve been on the national team if I hadn’t made decisions that kept me around the Seattle area. I’m very grateful for that. I owe a lot of people, and it’s time for me to give back. I honestly would not fulfill my dreams if I didn’t come to Seattle. It’s my time to give back to the fans who always supported me. It’s my time to just bring some entertainment to the game in Seattle and the women’s game.”

(You’ve talked about raising the level of women’s sports. Have you paid attention to the Storm and what the WNBA has done?) “Yeah, absolutely. It’s no secret that we’re still trying to grow a women’s professional league and we have a lot of work to do. Obviously it got suspended this last year and it’s nowhere where we need to be, and there is room for women’s professional sports and women’s professional soccer. There’s room for it. There’s a need for it, a desire for it. There’s a fan base for it, as you could see in the last World Cup, which was just five-, six months ago now. So there’s definitely a fan base for it, but it’s about getting the right structure in place. We have to look at other organizations, other women’s professional sports like the WNBA. So absolutely. You have a lot of the national team players who are really involved in helping develop the game and we hope to develop a league, a full-on professional league by the time we all retire.”

(Is it tough to be patient sometimes to that aim?) “No, it’s not. You want to make the right decisions; you want to do what’s best for the sport. We know we deserve to have a league. We know, like I said, there’s the will and the desire and the fan base, but it has to be done in the right manner. You have to be patient because you don’t want league to come and go. If you’re impatient, that’s what you’ve seen happen six years ago with the WUSA. Honestly, we’re trying to do what’s best for the girls that come after us when we’re long gone. You can’t just jump into a league with no health insurance, with no wages that can help you really live a life that you desire. So we are patient and we’re patient for the right reasons. With that in mind, our goal right now isn’t the league necessarily, but it’s to win the Olympics, which are four and a half months away. In doing that and winning gold, we’re hoping that it will help build the league.”

(How can this experiment help you prepare for the Olympics?) “We have nowhere to play on our breaks. Right now we’re on a two-week break and it is hard. You’re in the corner by yourself, juggling the ball, striking long-range distance balls to nobody. You’re jogging after your ball, you’re bringing it back — it’s not the intense, competitive environment that we all strive for going into the Olympics. That’s what you need as a pro athlete. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to come home, to be in a place I love, a city I love with friends and family around. I have a home in Kirkland and I can drive down the street 30 minutes and be in a professional environment with really good players who are going to help me in my preparation for the Olympics, and they’re going to help make me a better player. So I’m grateful for that opportunity. I probably should’ve done it a while ago, to be honest.”

(Can the previous experience of jumping back and forth from the USWNT and a club team help come together quickly this season?) “It’s always an interesting dynamic when you have people coming and going. I have all the faith in the world with the coaching staff, especially with someone like Michelle French. She’s been there, she’s done that, and she knows how to get the team together and really embrace the opportunity. It can make a team; it can break a team. I do believe that the environment that she is providing is going to make this team.”

(So with the WPS suspended, does that mean you’re here for just one season? Do you know yet?) “As of now, I have no intention to go back to the WPS. Even before it suspended, I had no intention of going back. I want to be with an organization that I really stand behind, and I’m happy to be here in Seattle.”

(Do you want to finish your career in Washington?) “Absolutely, yes. That would be the goal to retire here in Washington state, here in Seattle, and hopefully in a full-on professional league. But hopefully retirement isn’t any time soon. I definitely want to go more another World Cup and do one last cycle and try to bring home that World Cup trophy that is so hard to attain.”

(How hard is it to manage the women’s schedule with two years on and two years off?) “It is interesting because you’re not going a championship every year. I say that all the time to the NFL guys and NBA players: You guys call yourselves the best in the world, but you only play really in America, and you get to go after your (championship) every single year. To win my World Cup trophy, which has been a dream I’ve had ever since I was little, I have to wait four years. In those four years you’ve got young players coming up, anything can happen of course injury-wise, and you never know if you’ll make it again. It is tough to live your life in two-year cycles — Olympics and World Cup years — but I mean that’s the life of a pro athlete.”


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