Getty Images

Hope Solo: U.S. needs a goalkeeper, but I would need an answer

Leave a comment

NEW YORK — Hope Solo hasn’t retired — “It’s hard to retire when you got fired,” she repeated Tuesday, referencing her 2016-17 U.S. Soccer suspension and contract termination — but she also would not return to the U.S. national team under the current state.

“If Jill came to me today, Jill Ellis, the coach of the women’s team, and said, ‘Hope, we need a goalkeeper,’ — which they do — ‘can you come back and help us win the World Cup?’ I’d say to her, ‘Are you guys abiding by federal law?'” Solo said at the Hashtag Sports event in Manhattan. “That’s the only question I have to ask back and see what the answer is. We all know that they are not abiding by federal law, so I can not stand for that at this point.”

In January, Solo filed a complaint against U.S. Soccer with the U.S. Olympic Committee, accusing it of illegally favoring Major League Soccer. On Tuesday, she called the current labor agreement agreed to in April 2017 as “eye candy,” saying it yielded more pay for female players but fewer players on contract.

Solo, 36, has not played for club or country since she was suspended six months by U.S. Soccer in August 2016 after she called Sweden’s national team “a bunch of cowards” after beating the Americans in the Rio Olympic quarterfinals.

She was the No. 1 goalie for the U.S. at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics and 2007, 2011 and 2015 World Cups, taking two Olympic gold medals and a World Cup title and compiling 202 caps.

“If I didn’t have that World Cup victory, I’m not sure I could have ever left the game,” Solo said Tuesday. “I would have been back on the field at all costs. But I got my World Cup victory, and, for me as a young girl, more than the Olympics, that’s something I needed in my life, that I always wanted to accomplish. If I hadn’t had that, then I’m not sure I’d be happy with my career.”

Solo said she would “be perfectly happy out of the public eye” living on her 60 acres of North Carolina farmland with husband Jerramy Stevens. She was adamant that she would not run for U.S. Soccer president again, as she did unsuccessfully last winter.

Solo has said she has turned down offers to play overseas and would not return to the National Women’s Soccer League because it is run by U.S. Soccer.

“For me, competing means competing at the highest level,” said Solo, who in 2020 will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic soccer player. “That would be the World Cup. That would be the Olympics. And if I can’t play for my country, then it’s hard for me to go move to France and play professional league soccer when I want to play for my country. I want to play in World Cups and Olympics.

“If I went back and played club ball, it would be in Europe.”

And does she she herself ever doing that?

“I don’t shut out opportunities, so who knows,” Solo said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE: Carli Lloyd on retirement plans, career milestones, more in Q&A

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff set Australian Open duel

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff will meet in the third round of a second straight Grand Slam, this time at the Australian Open on Friday.

Osaka, the defending champion and world No. 4, and Gauff, the 15-year-old American phenom, each won second-round matches in Melbourne to reach the final 32.

Osaka swept Chinese Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 on a windy Wednesday afternoon. Later, Gauff followed her first-round win over Venus Williams by eliminating Romanian veteran Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

“I know what to expect,” Gauff said. “I’m excited.”

Osaka beat Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in the U.S. Open third round on Aug. 31. In the most memorable moment of that night, Osaka urged Gauff to share the on-court victor’s interview at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It’s better than going into the showers and crying,” Osaka told Gauff in front of a packed crowd. “Let these people know how you feel.”

Gauff obliged after at first declining.

“I’m not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone,” she said later. “I didn’t want to take that moment away from [Osaka], as well.”

Gauff, ranked No. 684 at this time last year, is now No. 67. She broke through by beating Williams in the Wimbledon first round, then reaching the round of 16.

Gauff won a lower-level WTA Tour event in October and now ranks fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying. The top four after the French Open qualify for the Tokyo Games, though Gauff has fewer than half the points as No. 4 Alison Riske.

“It’s been really cool to watch her grow because it’s happened so fast,” Osaka said.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

John Isner leaning toward skipping Olympics again

Getty Images
Leave a comment

John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront