The return of Hope

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GUANGZHOU, China --- Four months ago, Hope Solo was kicked off the U.S. women's soccer team for trashing the coach.

Hope Solo is back with the U.S. team, which has a new coach.  AP / File
AP / File
Hope Solo is back with the U.S. team, which has a new coach.

On Wednesday, the goalie was not only back on the squad, but she played the entire game, as the Americans routed Canada, 4-0, in a warmup for the Olympic qualifiers this spring.

Solo, who made two saves, was thrilled to be playing in the Four Nation Tournament in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. But she had reservations about coming back.

"I was scared. I was frightened. I didn't know what it would be like with the team," the 26-year-old told The Associated Press after the game. "But everyone has shown so much determination to move on."

The trouble began last September in the World Cup semifinals in China. Solo was a starter for much of 2007 and was playing well in the tournament. But the U.S. coach, Greg Ryan, made a surprise decision to use veteran Briana Scurry for a match with Brazil, which handily beat the Americans, 4-0.

After the defeat, Solo ripped into Ryan, saying he made a mistake by switching goalies and that she would have made the saves -- comments that got her dismissed from the team.

She later apologized for her outburst and acknowledged that she let down her teammates and lost their trust. She said her emotions were tightly wound during the Cup. She wanted to win for her father, who died just a few months before the tournament.

Solo said Wednesday it felt good to be back with the team.

"When you get put into a game, everything just subsides. ... It gets drowned out."

The goalie has also found it easier to get a fresh start because the team has a new coach. Ryan's contract wasn't renewed, and the Americans hired their first foreign coach: Pia Sundhage, a Swedish soccer star who was an assistant coach for China in the Cup.

"She's amazing. Her knowledge of the game, her inspiration, her passion for the game is more than any coach I've ever played for."

Sundhage said after she took over in mid-November that she met individually with the players to discuss the controversy.

Sundhage said both of her goalkeepers will play in China and that Scurry will start in Friday's match against Finland.

"The reason why we picked Hope this time is that we expected a lot of balls in the air," she said. "I think Hope did great today."


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