LONDON – Hope Solo has never shied away from a battle -- real or imagined, actual or manufactured. The woman speaks her mind and worries about the hurt feelings later.
As long as they are talking about her, it's all good. Controversy has helped make her a breakout star of soccer. She's not naive.
So here came Saturday, with the U.S. women's soccer team quietly beating Colombia 3-0 to qualify for the quarterfinals. This was no surprise, as the U.S. will challenge for gold. There was little attention being paid to the team thus far. The Olympics had just begun and were happening mostly in London, while the U.S. team was touring the rest of Great Britain.
So Solo decided to go on Twitter and blast NBC analyst Brandi Chastain, a former American soccer star herself.
"Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game @brandichastian," Solo tweeted in something that resembled English. "Lay off commentating about defending and gking [goal keeping] until you get more educated @brandichastain the game has changed from a decade ago."
Later she came back with two more tweets.
"Its important 2 our fans 2 enjoy the spirit of the olympics. Its not possible when sum1 on air is saying that a player is the worst defender!" And then: "I feel bad 4 our fans that have 2 push mute, especially bc @arlowwhite is fantastic. @brandichastain should be helping 2 grow the sport."
What did Brandi Chastain say to get Solo so fired up?
No one is entirely sure, and because Solo tweeted immediately after the game, it seems she would've heard it secondhand. An analysis of the game by Deadspin found just one standout comment that could be called "critical" of a defender, as Solo alluded to in her tweets.
It came when Rachel Buehler lost a ball in the 19th minute of the first half.
"Rachel Buehler with the giveaway there," Chastain said. "As a defender your responsibilities are defend, win the ball, and then keep possession, and that's something Rachel Buehler needs to improve on during this tournament."
So that was it?
An email and call to Solo's cell phone were not immediately returned.
All Solo did was draw attention to a criticism few heard and fewer remembered.
It did get Hope Solo's name back in the headlines, though. She does have a book out, after all.
Chastain's job actually isn't to grow the sport. It's to comment on Olympic soccer, Team USA in particular. If that includes criticism, then so be it. Saying Rachel Buehler needs to work on not losing the ball isn't criticism.
And since Chastain once scored a World Cup winner in the Rose Bowl and ripped off her shirt, she's done her fair share of promoting women's soccer through the years. That was then.
Of course, Chastain was critical of Solo's failed drug test earlier this month. So this isn't the first flare-up.
"It's news that they don't need," Chastain told Larry Brown Sports after Solo tested positive for a diuretic she said was unknowingly in her premenstrual medication. "As athletes, we have to be more careful. Whether you've been told one time something is OK, it's always good to double- and triple- and quadruple-check. Something as innocuous as a cold medication to clear up the sniffles could derail not only you as an individual, but perhaps a whole team.
"I was disappointed that it came up because, for as careful as I think everybody is, I think we could all go without some medication for a short amount of time and not suffer too greatly."
So this isn't a new feud, and Solo isn't new to feuding. She famously ripped a coach's decision in the 2007 World Cup to bench her against Brazil in favor of veteran Briana Scurry. That alienated her from teammates for a stretch.
This latest incident could be seen as defending one of them. Although it stands to reason Buehler would've preferred the world had just forgotten Chastain's fairly tame comment about a bad play she made in a lightly watched game.
That's not Solo's style. Starting a fight -- this time with a one-time star turned TV analyst -- is. It helps promote Hope Solo and, of course, whatever Hope Solo is hocking right now.
Don't blame her. It's the spirit of the Olympics. If no one's paying attention, find a way to make them.
That's a game Hope Solo long ago mastered.
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