Storybook endings are rare in real life, and more often must be left to the silver screen.
Unless your name is Hope Solo, and in that case the Olympics become your stage.
On Thursday morning, as a fairytale was played out half a world away, one of Solo’s biggest admirers found herself, all at once, exhilarated and touched by true sentiment in seeing Solo atop the awards platform, a gold medal hanging from her neck.
“I was bawling, I was calling people and I was waking everybody who wasn’t already awake,” says Lesle Gallimore, who was Solo’s coach at Washington from 1999-02.
Hours later, Gallimore was still emotional, so poignant was keeper’s heroic performance.
Scripts such as these are saved for Hollywood, but movie makers might even find Solo’s story of redemption too good to be true.
Inexplicably benched before a World Cup semifinal 10 months ago, Solo was shocked and critical of the move by then-U.S. coach Greg Ryan. You know the rest. Brazil beat the Americans, 4-0. Solo was ostracized by her teammates, Ryan was fired. It was a mess.
Enter new coach Pia Sundhage, who promptly gave Solo a second chance and convinced the players to do the same. That, in itself, is something sports don’t always offer, says Gallimore.
“Pia’s done a very good job of handling, communicating and dealing with Hope,” Gallimore says, “and here was this opportunity to prove herself once again, against the very same team in a very similar situation.”
A point-blank save by Solo off Brazil star Marta in the 72nd minute seemed to spark the U.S. Amy Rodriguez nearly broke the scoreless deadlock in the latter stages of regulation, before Carli Lloyd found the net early in extra time.
In the final minutes, Solo made one more save and repelled the final three of Brazil’s 15 corners to close-out the epic contest.
As much as Gallimore is a fan of her former keeper, she says that up until the final match Solo was merely playing O.K. The Americans scratched and clawed their way through the tournament, which began with a 2-0 loss to Norway.
An underdog to Brazil, the U.S. played its best defensive game in more than a year, says Gallimore, and Solo “did everything she needed to do to keep her team in the game.”
Shortly after the final whistle, Gallimore was calling Solo’s cell phone, her voice no doubt shaking on voicemail message. It’s been a long, trying 10 months since the World Cup, particularly for Solo, but also for those closest to her.
A second chance was sufficient, but a happy ending is sheer heaven.
“As an athlete, that’s all you ever hope to say is, Watch me play and look at what I can do,” says Gallimore. “Now Hope doesn’t have to say anything, and I think she showed why she’s the best.”
State Opts for Short
Beginning this fall, less is more in Washington Youth Soccer.
Earlier this week, the WSYSA Board of Directors approved trimming the state league format from 14 to 10 matches. That immediately affects the girls U13-U14 age groups and boys from U13-U19.
“We understand that for those players that are playing year-round, that there needs to be a balance between the number of competitive games in a year and the amount of rest and regeneration,” says state coaching director Dave Schumacher.
The general consensus is that kids should only play about 30 matches each year. Research conducted by U.S. Soccer showed that players had a higher rate of development when they practiced more and had fewer games.
Limiting the number of games will ease the congestion on fields. It will also help families who are feeling the strain of gas prices for travel and end seasons before the holidays and truly inclement weather arrive in December.
Last spring, Washington Youth Soccer modified the girls U15-U19 season for similar
Carolina on Their Minds
This lengthy final regular season homestand for the USL Sounders can get a timely kick-start Sunday night when Carolina comes to town.
Seattle is overdue to score some goals after being blanked in the last two games at Starfire, and the offense has not generated more than one goal at home since July 1.
The Railhawks could be vulnerable, however. They are coming into the week on a 11-game winless run and play at Minnesota Friday.
Although a 12-day break in league play awaits the Sounders following this weekend, the gap is being filled by two friendlies. They visit the Huskies on Aug. 27 and San Jose on Sept. 2.
Turn On, Tune In
At long last, Olympic soccer is obtainable in prime time. West Coast TV viewers can catch the men’s Argentina-Nigeria final at 9 o’clock Friday night (that’s noontime in Beijing) on both CNBC and CBC.
Also on Friday evening, the USL match on Fox Soccer Channel (8 p.m.) will have a bearing on the Cascadia Cup, with Portland playing at Vancouver. If the Whitecaps win, they will hold a slim lead over Seattle going into the final fixture, Sept. 20 at Starfire.
In MLS, there promises to be lots of atmosphere for Saturday’s Toronto-New England match (4 p.m., FSC) at BMO Field. Later (7:30, HDNet), resurgent San Jose can climb out of the cellar with a road win over a reeling Chivas USA.
Highlights from Europe include a London derby, Fulham-Arsenal (Sat., 9:30, FSC), the second leg of the Spanish Supercopa, Real Madrid-Valencia (Sun., 1 p.m., FSC) and a rematch of the Community Shield, Portsmouth-Man United (Mon, 12 p.m., Setanta).
CONCACAF Champions League play begins Tuesday night on FSC, with the Revs and Chivas of MLS playing regional opposition in the tripleheader beginning at 5 on FSC.
Finally, a peak ahead to next Friday, Aug. 29, finds FSC airing the European Super Cup between Manchester United and Zenit (noon) and a fine college opener at 4, featuring No. 14 UCLA at No. 8 Maryland.
Just over a week to go before the sash comes down on the FIFA transfer window. Big names still in play include Dimitar Berbatov, Robinho and Andrei Arshavin…Former Seattle SeaDogs coach Fernando Clavijo has parted ways with Colorado after three-plus seasons with the Rapids…Besides UW alum Solo, the winning U.S. women’s Olympic side included ex-Portland star Stephanie Cox…The first issue of collegiate rankings are out, and four of the region’s women’s teams are prominent. Seattle Pacific is No. 4 in the NCAA Division II preseason coaches poll. Portland is No. 6 in D-I (8th in Soccer America), Puget Sound fifth in Div. III and Whitworth No. 10 in the latter. No Northwest men’s teams were listed…There’s free admission to Friday’s 7 p.m. UW-Seattle U. men’s exhibition at Montlake. The Redhawk women embark on their road to Division I Friday at Utah’s Weber State. Playing as an independent, SU will play 14 of 19 games on the road. For the SU men, it will be 12 of 15…The first counting college game in the city will be next Thursday, Aug. 28. Seattle Pacific hosts a doubleheader at Interbay beginning at 4:30 with the SPU men, followed by the women at 7.