Suspension served, Hope Solo is back with the U.S. WNT, and has been named to the upcoming Algarve Cup roster.
Solo served a 30 day suspension after her husband was arrested for DUI while driving a U.S. Soccer vehicle.The controversial goalkeeper was in camp with the team at the time, and had just seen domestic violence charges against her dropped, so U.S. Soccer decided enough was enough.
Now Solo is back following a “formal review” and will be expected to reclaim her number one status at the Portuguese tournament that runs from March 4-11.
Solo missed the team’s two game Euro jaunt, when the Americans lost a bad 2-0 decision to France, before underwhelming in a 1-0 win against England.
Ashlyn Harris played all 180 minutes in the two matches, and while the Washington Spirit keeper had some good moments, she clearly did not do enough to cause Jill Ellis and U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati ring the curtain down on the Hope Solo era.
Also returning to the fold for the Algarve Cup are captain Christie Rampone and midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who missed the tournament through injury, and striker Sydney Leroux. Leroux was with the squad for the recent two game set, but a knock kept the newlywed- to Sporting KC striker Dom Dwyer- sidelined.
Rapinoe and Leroux give Ellis two more attacking options, while the coach may turn to Rampone to lead a somewhat unsettled U.S. backline.
Ellis has said that the Algarve Cup will be where she nails down a first 11, and her top subs, but one wonders is the coach leaving that a bit late?
The defending Olympic champions were badly outplayed by a rising French side, and no one will have been fooled by the subsequent 1-0 win over England.
Ellis’ uncertainty over her defense is signalled by her decision to take 10 defenders to Portugal, as part of a 25 player traveling party. The coach will have to name a 23 player group for the tournament.
Becky Sauerbrunn and Whitney Engen were solid in the captain’s absence, but Ellis may look to the 39 year old Rampone to lead from the back.
Ellis will also use the Algarve to see if she can find a way to squeeze some more goals out of her seemingly loaded attacking unit. Over its prior six matches the U.S. attack has failed to live up to the hype. Other than in a 3-2 loss to Brazil in December, and a facile 7-0 blowout of Argentina, the Americans have managed one goal twice; against England and in a 1-1 tie with China, and zero twice; versus France and 0-0 draw with Brazil.
The U.S. went 2-2-2 over that six game stretch, not exactly what was expected when Gulati showed Ellis’ predecessor Tom Sermanni the door.
The U.S. WNT have claimed the Algarve Cup nine times, more than any other nation. Sermanni’s demise began this time last year when he guided the team to a worst ever seventh place finish. Now here we are a year later, and Ellis is still trying to get it right for the World Cup.
When the Americans take to the Winnipeg Stadium turf on June 8 to face Australia, Solo will almost certainly be stationed in the U.S. goal, why bring her back otherwise?
Who will man the 10 positions in front of Solo? Tune in to Algarve Cup to find out.
U.S. Algarve Cup Schedule
March 4: U.S. WNT vs. Norway
March 6: U.S. WNT vs. Switzerland
March 9: U.S. WNT vs. Iceland
Norway and Switzerland have qualified for the 2015 World Cup.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (10): Lori Chalupny (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Whitney Engen (Western NY Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Houston Dash), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Rachel Van Hollebeke (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lauren Holiday (FC Kansas City), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
FORWARDS (5): Sydney Leroux (Seattle Reign FC), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Abby Wambach (Western NY Flash)