A day after the Seattle Reign lost the NWSL Championship game in Portland, the announcement came that U.S. keeper Hope Solo will face charges related to the domestic violence case stemming from an argument with her half sister and minor nephew in June 2014. The news came after an appeals court reversed the initial decision to dismiss the case in January 2015.
This reversal could create quite a situation for US Soccer, who is notorious for using Solo as their starting goalkeeper even in meaningless friendlies against weaker teams, leaving the country's two backup keepers with minimal minutes. The federation allowed Solo to continue to start throughout the original process, enabling her to set two records; the most victories (134) and the most appearances by a US goalkeeper (175). But throughout the way to the World Cup, she also served a one-month suspension after her husband was arrested while driving a US Soccer vehicle. Solo was in the car- and in the midst of a training camp with the National Team- at the time. It was later reported that US Soccer sent and paid for two goalkeeping coaches to continue to train with her in Seattle.
The dismissal of the first charges allowed the US Soccer Federation to sweep the incidents under the rug as a 'non-incident,' leaving no room for doubt she would continue on with the team to compete in Canada. However, with new charges pending and a trial likely to take place next year at the earliest, US Soccer may find themselves in a bind with their star keeper facing legal jeopardy.
With the Women's World Cup in the past, US Soccer is looking forward to the Rio Olympics. The 2012 U.S. Olympic Committee Athlete Selection Procedure for the women's games indicates all athletes must be eligible under FIFA rules, and also lays out the basic code of conduct for athletes. Given that FIFA isn't exactly the poster child for good behavior right now, we'll stick with the U.S. Olympic Committee code of conduct.
The selection criteria clearly states a players maturity, leadership and aggressiveness off the pitch- as well as on- can be a factor in the Head Coach's decision to include them in the 18-player roster. Given that Jill Ellis has seemed content with letting Solo do her own thing, it's safe to assume this development will have little impact on the decision of who should be the two goalkeepers going to Rio.
Section C., Part 6: Selection Criteria In selecting athletes to be members of the Team, the Women’s Olympic Team Head Coach will consider information, consisting of observation, video analysis and statistics (Attachment A and Attachment B) of both objective and subjective in nature, which pertains to technical ability, tactical decisions, physical and psychological capabilities and other considerations.
- Performance: technical, tactical, physical and psychological
- Other considerations: potential to perform under pressure and contributions on/off the field in the areas of: teamwork, enthusiasm, versatility within her position, maturity, aggressiveness, leadership, competitive
Section III, titled Removal of Athletes, may apply more to this situation. Among reasons for players to be removed by US Soccer from the roster prior to the US Olympic Committee (USOC) approval are the obvious; voluntary withdrawal and illness, but also a third reason; "Violation of the U.S. Soccer Player's Handbook." (It also states players accepted by the USOC are bound by the USOC Code of Conduct & Grievance Procedures.)
Now, about that US Soccer Player's Handbook....As of 2010, rule number 1 of section A stated "Alcohol will not be consumed by any player during a National Team event." We can overlook this one since it is still unclear if Solo was drinking when her husband was driving the team vehicle, despite reports of acting belligerent. Rule number 9 of section C reads, "If you are going to be out of your room make sure team staff knows where you will be." Whether the staff knew she was out of the room is up for question; but considering Ellis felt the need to discipline her, we can safely assume some form of team rule was broken. It was, after all, significant enough for her to be suspended.
But the most compelling argument for her to be potentially left off from the roster comes from a section specifically labeled "Publicity and Public Relations." Out of the five rules listed, Solo has clearly and repeatedly broken no less than two (#1 and #5).
Now, this is in no way saying US Soccer or the US Olympic Committee will remove her from contention for the Olympic Team roster should these charges not go in a favorable way for Solo. It would be ridiculous to conclude such. For US Soccer, much like FIFA, rules are seemingly made to be more of 'suggestions.'
If Solo is found innocent of all charges, the argument of "should she or shouldn't she" be on the roster is moot. But the fact remains, if she is convicted, US Soccer has questions to answer. Starting with, who starts in goal for Rio?