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11 Questions With U.S. WNT Goalkeeper Hope Solo

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo is an intimidating presence in the net. The athletic Solo has all the attributes you would want in a goalkeeper; size, strength, quickness and a willingness to put her body on the line to make a save. It’s well known that during her youth career, Solo played as much on the field as in the nets, scoring 109 goals as a forward in high school. Fortunately for the USA, she focused on one position in college at the University of Washington. With 16 shutouts in 32 caps, Solo is already third in both categories and has the best shutouts to caps ratio of any U.S. ’keeper. In advance of the USA’s first Peace Queen Cup match in South Korea, the Seattle, Wash., resident took time out from her search for a good coffee shop in Seoul (it turns out there are plenty) to answer 11 questions for Are you looking forward to the quality of opposition at the Peace Queen Cup?

Hope Solo: “Without a doubt. These are the games that I look forward to most because this is where a goalkeeper can really rise to the occasion and help her team. Denmark and Australia are already in the 2007 Women’s World Cup. Holland finished behind England and France in their qualifying group, but those are two good teams. It should be a great tournament.” You are from Eastern Washington and currently live in Seattle. What are the main factors that make the Northwest so wonderful?

HS: “I wish people could understand how crisp and fresh the air is. I look around when I am training and I see three different mountain ranges. We are close to the Sound and Lake Washington. It is just so green and no one in Seattle takes the sun for granted. On a beautiful day, you see sailboats everywhere. Seattle also has some of the best seafood and coffee I’ve ever had.” If you got free tickets to a Seahawks, Mariners or Sonics game, which would you choose?

HS: “The Seahawks. I don’t want to say I’m a hop-on-the-bandwagon fan, but I just enjoy watching football the most. Basketball is a close second and baseball is a distant third. I also love to support the former University of Washington athletes. I know a few of the Seahawks, and they are great guys.” You played for clubs in both Sweden and France. Which language did you learn more of?

HS: “That is a tough one, but probably French by default because I had to or no one would speak to me. I actually made more of an effort with Swedish. I bought the books and the CDs, but my teammates in Sweden didn’t want me to speak Swedish. They just wanted to speak English.” Would you consider going back overseas at some point to play?

HS: “At this point in my life, I would have to say no, but I would never close the door. I never thought I would find myself playing for two years overseas anyway. Hopefully, we can get another league started in the United States so I can play at home.” The distance of your kicking game is among the best in the world. Is that something you’ve practiced on or did it just come naturally?

HS: “For the most part, it came naturally, but I have sharpened it up and tried to maintain it. I did have to learn how to drop kick, because coming into Olympic Residency in 2000, I’d always punted out of my hands. It took a while to get proficient at that, but once I got the technique down, the distance was always there. All those years I played on the field and scoring goals certainly paid off.” Fairly or unfairly, the goalkeeper is always under the microscope. How do you deal with that kind of pressure or do you embrace it?

HS: “I would say I embrace it, and that’s probably why I like tough, intense games more than games where I don’t see the ball much. If you put me under pressure, I tend to rise to the occasion. As a goalkeeper, it is true that you are always under the microscope, but most fans don’t really know the intricacies of goalkeeping and can’t see in games if you are organizing your defense well, which limits chances, or reading the game, which can make your saves much easier. People will look at a stat sheet and see that a goalkeeper only made three saves, but that often doesn’t reflect the goalkeeper’s performance.” What’s your favorite part of training?

HS: “Like every true goalkeeper, it’s when I get to play on the field with the field players. If I’m in goal, then I like four-v-four on big goals. You get a little of everything, shot-stopping, crosses, breakaways and organizing your defense.” What does a ‘keeper hate more, a muddy goal area, a hard goal area or a sandy goal area?

HS: “I absolutely love the mud. I will roll around and get dirty and have the time of my life. Sand is the worst. Usually when there is sand in a goal it means it’s hard anyway, and the sand just causes weird burns all over your body, plus you lose your footing instantly when you push off to dive. I can handle the hard ground. It’s pretty arid in Eastern Washington so we had some hard fields.” You have a unique style of fashion. We’re pretty sure you didn’t develop it in Eastern Washington. How do you think you got your sense of style?

HS: “I don’t have one particular style. Sometimes it’s more alternative, but other times it’s more hip-hop, hence the sideways hats, and sometimes I even have the high-heels and dresses, so I am all over the board with clothes. But I think I’ve always liked things that are just a little bit different. Different patterns, different colors and different cuts, even though I am pretty shy and don’t usually like to stand out, which is odd, because I don’t usually blend in either.” Who is your favorite goalkeeper?

HS: “Right now, I really like Jens Lehmann of Germany and Arsenal. It was a pretty controversial goalkeeping situation for him at the 2006 World Cup, which you think would be hard mentally replacing a legend like Oliver Kahn in the most important games of your career in your home country, and I think he did very well with that. And then there is Gigi Buffon of Italy. I love his aura, arrogance and confidence. Plus he’s Italian and what other goalkeeper can wear pink and get away with it? I think I am going to talk to Nike about getting a pink ‘keeper jersey.”