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January 24, 2013 at 3:23 PM

A stop and chat with Hope Solo

solo presser.jpgReign FC goalkeeper Hope Solo held a press conference Thursday in downtown Seattle. The Richland native and former University of Washington star took questions for about 15 minutes or so, and here is a transcript:

* * *

(What’s it like to be on your hometown team?) “I never thought it would happen, to be honest. First off, when I came to the University of Washington I told my family I would never stay in the state of Washington. I was going to go to the East Coast to play. And then I fell in love. I played at UW and really started my career here in the state of Washington, and I have so much support it only seems fitting to end my career here in Washington – not that I’m retiring anytime soon. But yeah, that was my dream, to eventually play professionally here in the city that I do love.”

(Did you think there was opportunity for a new league coming off the way the last league ended?) “There’s always opportunity, because America loves soccer and the sport is growing. Of course Seattle loves soccer. You can see from the men’s Seattle Sounders team. But as long as there’s that passion and love of the game, then there’s opportunity for growth. I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised that another league has come out this quickly.”

(And you’re more confident this one will have more longevity?) “Absolutely. I’m more comfortable than I ever have been, and I’ve been in a lot of failed leagues, unfortunately. But this one’s different. There’s a different business plan, there’s a different business model, and it has the backing of U.S. Soccer.”

(How much does U.S. Soccer’s involvement mean?) “Well, U.S. Soccer is playing my salary. They’re playing the salaries for the best players, for the national team players. So that takes a lot of weight off the shoulders of the owners, and it should create longevity for the league to survive.”

(There’s an existing narrative here in Seattle of a hometown goalkeeper who starred for the national team coming to a startup soccer team and having success. How much do you hope to follow Kasey Keller’s model?) “That’s funny. Yep. Kasey and I coming back home to retire, right? As long as we get a championship while we’re at it, then I’ll be one happy camper. But yeah, I want to bring this city a championship and I want to bring notoriety to the game, and I want to give back to this city and show them the beautiful game. Most of the time, they get to see that high level of play on TV, during the World Cups, during the Olympics, now we’re bringing it here to the city. Of course, I played for the Seattle Sounders (Women) … but this is a different level. It’s not the same. This is the best of the best players, so I think it’s going to be fun for the city to finally see.”

(Keller was the leader of that team. Do you want to be the leader of this team?) “I always lead in my own way. The best players, that’s usually what they do. I don’t need a captain’s band to lead a team to victory.”

(You seemed so grateful to the Sounders Women last year. Is it awkward at all to come to this team now?) “No, I’m still grateful to the Sounders. I still go to the men’s Sounders games. I’m a Sounders fan. But I like this is a different level. There’s no competition because it’s a different level. It’s a division two team versus a pro team. And they’re still doing wonderful things for the sport, as well.”

(Want to fire any shots at Portland?) “That is what you’re expecting, right? The Hope Solo you guys know and love? I’ll do what it takes to win a championship, but yes, Portland has quite a roster. (Owner Bill Predmore) and I were just talking and it’s never what you think on paper. It never usually comes to fruition during the season, so we’ll have to wait and see.”

(Any effects to not being linked with Sounders name, brand, colors, etc.?) “Like I said, it’s a division two team versus a professional team, and we’re all in it together to build the game here in the city. So there shouldn’t be effects. You’re going to get maybe your right-out-of-college players playing for the Sounders. Maybe they’re trying to maybe get more experience at a higher level before they can maybe filter over to the Reign. So it could be looked at as a really positive thing if we decide to look at it that way.”

(You don’t think Sounders fans will say they’re Sounders fans only?) “Well, to be quite honest, I think most of the fans watch the men’s games. I think we had a great season getting 5,000 people at the games for the women’s Sounders, but unfortunately I think many of those fans were there to see some of the high-caliber players that were in town, the Megan Rapinoes, the Alex Morgans, so there shouldn’t be a competition for fans. Ultimately, I think this city wants to see the best of the best.”

(Any thoughts on playing with Rapinoe?) “Oh, she’s one of my favorite players. I’m happy. She loves the city. I’d love to share the city with my national team teammate. But she’s a special player. She’s just so talented and exciting to watch, and she brings flair and just excitement to the game that not a lot of players do. I think another player who can bring that flair is a player like Tobin Heath, but to have a player as exciting as Megan Rapinoe on the team, I mean, it’s just going to fill the stands with more fans.”

(For a USWNT perspective, was it better to have a lot of players on one team like the Sounders Women last year versus the mix you see in the NWSL?) “No, I think we train so much together as a national team, especially when we’re gearing up the Olympics or the World Cup. So it was great, but we didn’t need that to be successful in London.”

(How do the high-profile players, including yourself, accept the responsibility to put yourself out there to help grow the game?) “We all have an obligation to build the game and to eventually get to a point where we can sustain ourselves and get great paychecks and kind of be up there like the WNBA. It starts somewhere, and I think I have to be realistic with myself — there’s going to be lots of bumps along the way. We’ve already had failed leagues left and right, and I’ve been a part of every single one, so I put myself out here today because I want to do the right thing. I want to build the game, and there is a place for it here in America. There is a place for a women’s pro league. In my heart, I feel like this is a league that’s going to work, but we have to start small and build and build and build. It is hard for players like myself with experience, who are maybe a little bit older, who have high expectations. I strive for a high level of professionalism, so good thing Bill is with me on that and we have an owner who is shooting for the sky, as well.”

(Is it good or bad that Rapinoe and Heath are going to France to start?) “Similar to what happens on the men’s side, right? And I don’t think anyone thinks it’s negative when it happens on the men’s side. You see Landon going overseas, getting some experience, coming back a little bit late for his season. You see Beckham did it. They’re playing year-round and they’re playing in quality leagues and they’re getting good experience, so I think nothing but positive when I think of Megan going overseas and coming back.”

(How will have a foreign coach have an impact on this team?) “I wish I could tell you. I haven’t even met our coach yet. I don’t even know anything about her style her play. That’s what keeps me excited. I’m excited to go out, even with the national team coach, with Tom Sermanni, I haven’t seen his style. I haven’t seen how he puts on training sessions, so all of that inspires me, because I want to go out and prove to the coach that this is what I’m all about. I work hard. I’ll be the best goalkeeper. But I know nothing about her. I hope to meet her soon.”

(How fulfilling have the past few months been for you, personally and professionally?) “It’s been a crazy year, as always — the story of my life — but it’s been a great year. Obviously with the Olympics, after losing the World Cup, coming back and winning gold against Japan was incredible. I’m still waiting for that World Cup trophy, so I’m going to go after it, go hard for another three or four years. But personally, that’s part of life. There’s a lot of ups and downs. Right now I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my personal life. I’m happily married. Yeah, there’s lots of ups and downs, but that’s what makes us strong is getting through them all.”

(You’ve never shied away from the court of public opinion. What would you say to the people who wonder how you’re doing?) “Oh, I don’t really care what they think. I’m perfectly fine and I’m happy, and at the end of the day it’s the people closest to me that matter.”

(Does it ever get easier regarding your personal life being in the spotlight?) “Well, my personal life is in the spotlight, but people say what they want to say. The truth isn’t in the spotlight, I should say. I’m in the spotlight, but not the truth. That’s hard to accept, but that is unfortunately kind of how the world is and how the media is.”

(Do you think the media portrays you unfairly at times?) “Yeah, absolutely. But like I said, that’s kind of how the world works. Whether it’s with Hollywood, whether it’s with sports figures, whether it’s the President, that’s kind of how it works. I’m realistic and I understand that. That’s why it’s important for me to know who I am, to know I’m living my life the way I want to live, and that I am happy. At the end of the day, I can’t really let myself get too angry about outside opinions that are or aren’t true.”

(Does being in Seattle make that an added challenge because you and your husband, Jerramy Stevens, are known in the community?) “We’re known in the community for doing good things. We do many local events, many charities, so I think we should be just fine.”

(Does his history as a professional athlete makes things easier at all?) “Absolutely. That’s a great question. Thank you. Absolutely. He knows the struggles, the daily grind, the mentality that it takes to be on top. He gets it.”

(How is your schedule going to look? A little less going on?) “I think once the season starts it will slow down for me because I’ll be in Seattle weekly, training day in and day out. So yeah, I guess it’s going to be kind of an off year for me, even though I’m in the middle of the season.”

(Do you have any ideas in how much longer you want to be involved with the USWNT?) “I just said I’m for sure going for another World Cup trophy — or a World Cup trophy, another World Cup. So that’s another three years from now. Maybe I’ll stick around for another Olympics, but three or four years.”

(Is that professionally, as well?) “I’m just speaking for the national team. I guess I could play until I’m 50 here in Seattle. Pull a Kasey Keller.”

(50…?) “Sorry Kasey… (laughs). You won’t see me wearing pants though as a goalkeeper.”

(Is Jerramy a soccer fan or are you teaching him the game?) “Jerramy became a fan many years ago, before we got together. He started watching all the EPL games, so he’s got a good eye.”

(Do you have a favorite EPL team?) “Man. City.”

(Do you see coaching in your future after playing?) “I’m not quite sure what direction my life will take post-playing career. There are some opportunities out there — maybe some things on air and broadcasting and things of the like. I’ll coach defense and I’ll coach goalkeepers, but I don’t want to be a head coach, by any means. But I love studying defense and watching film. I think that could be my gig.”

(When you report to the USWNT?) “Our first camp with Tom Sermanni is Feb. 2. So I’ve had a good six-week break away from the game. First time I’ve had this long of a break, since — shoot — high school, probably.”

(Where’d you go?) “I didn’t do anything. Jerramy and I went back and forth, spent some time in Florida, got some sun, did a lot of fishing, and we’ve been building a dog run because we just got two puppies. … It’s been a lot of work in the rain.”

(What kind of dogs?) “We haven’t got them yet. It’s been three weeks. We’ve purchased them, but they’re five weeks old right now. We get them when they turn eight weeks. I don’t want to tell you guys what kind of dog. And no, not pit bulls.”

(Huskies?) “You’d think. I can’t tell you guys. It’s all over Twitter right now. People are guessing what kind of puppies we’re getting.”

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