When Abby Wambach’s powerful left foot nailed an 18-yard blast that looked certain to be a goal, Hope Solo made an all-out stretch-dive to her right to save it.
Solo might have had to settle for fourth with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy on Dancing With the Stars last fall, but she’s still the consensus No. 1 goalkeeper in the world.
“Now you have your everyday citizen knowing who I am,” Solo said. “For the game to grow, it needs to get more mainstream media, and I know Dancing With the Stars did just that.”
Solo feels the same about her recent nude photo shoot for ESPN the Magazine, yet another byproduct of the wave of attention the U.S. women’s soccer team rode from its second-place finish at the World Cup in Germany last summer. It’s a sport that still needs to sell itself, and Solo – outspoken, daring, talented – fits the bill perfectly.
Solo and her teammates are back to serious work over the next two weeks as they attempt to earn their way to the London Olympics. Eight teams are vying for two berths in the CONCACAF tournament; the U.S. opens Friday against the Dominican Republic.
Might all the celebrity trappings cause her to lose her edge in soccer?
“I don’t think anybody’s ever questioned my focus,” she shoots back. “Very competitive, very driven.”
“She is intimidating,” midfielder Megan Rapinoe said. “Not once you get to know her. She’s just one of the girls once you get to know her. Hopefully she does intimidate other people.”