Jill Ellis responds to Hope Solo's criticism on eve of USWNT's World Cup opener

REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 10: USA coach Jill Ellis speaks to the media during the USA press conference ahead of the Group F match between the USA and Thailand for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 10, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Robert Cianflone - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 10: USA coach Jill Ellis speaks to the media during the USA press conference ahead of the Group F match between the USA and Thailand for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 10, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Robert Cianflone - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

REIMS, France — A little more than 24 hours before the United States women’s national team begins its title defense here at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, U.S.coach Jill Ellis responded to the scathing criticism delivered last week by her former star goalkeeper Hope Solo, who said on a BBC podcast that Ellis “cracks under pressure.” Solo went on to say that the Americans won the 2015 World Cup in Canada in spite of Ellis, not because of her.

“Jill – she’s not the leader I wish her to be,” Solo told the BBC, which she’s working for as a pundit during France 2019. “She relies heavily on her assistant coaches. She cracks under the pressure quite a bit. But oftentimes it doesn’t matter, because the quality of the players on the U.S. team is superb.”

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At Monday’s pre-match news conference — the U.S. meets Thailand on Tuesday (3 p.m. ET, Fox) — Ellis responded to Solo’s rebuke.

“Comments are comments,” Ellis said. “Listen, I feel over the past five years I’ve made a lot of different decisions and I have processes to make those decisions and own those processes. And at this point, the focus is about this group of players that are here and now. Comments out there, that’s part of it, and part of the message to all is to make sure the focus is on the internal part, and that’s where we are.”

Solo was Ellis’ No. 1 keeper four years ago and also at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where the favored Americans — who had won the gold medal in London in 2012 under then-manager Pia Sundhage — were upset by Sweden on penalty kicks in the quarterfinal.

Solo did not play particularly well in Rio, and in the fallout from the loss she called the Swedes “a bunch cowards” for using what she viewed as overly defensive tactics against the U.S. She was suspended from the national team and had her contract terminated by the U.S. Soccer Federation after making those remarks, which the USSF said fit a pattern of “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles.”

Solo was arrested on domestic violence charges in 2014. (The case was dropped last year after witnesses declined to testify.) In early 2015, Solo was a passenger in a borrowed team vehicle being driven by her husband when he was arrested for driving drunk the following year.

“Taking into consideration the past incidents involving Hope, as well as the private conversations we’ve had requiring her to conduct herself in a manner befitting a U.S. national team member, U.S. Soccer determined this is the appropriate disciplinary action,” U.S. Soccer’s then-president, Sunil Gulati, said at the time. Solo, now 37, never played for her country again, finishing her 17-year international career with 202 appearances.

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