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Column: U.S. Soccer prioritizes winning with Solo’s suspension

William Purnell/Icon Sportswire

Hope Solo was not suspended by U.S. Soccer for her comments after losing to Sweden in the quarterfinals of the Olympics when she called the Swedish players “cowards.” Hope Solo was suspended for six months by U.S. Soccer because U.S. Soccer doesn’t need her for the next six months, and possibly ever again.

In a statement announcing the news, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said of Solo:

“The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden during the 2016 Olympics were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players. Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.

“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.”

During her 17 year career with the USWNT, Hope Solo has been two things: possibly the best goalkeeper the Women’s national team has ever seen as well as an off the field nightmare for U.S. Soccer. Calling Swedish players cowards wasn’t a reason to suspend Solo so much as a convenient excuse to move on from her.

Richard Nichols, the executive director of the USWNT Players Association called the suspension “excessive and unprecedented.” And that’s where this gets all muddy. If Solo was truly suspended for her comments after the Sweden game then Mr. Nichols is absolutely right. The suspension is incredibly excessive.

But of course that’s not what the suspension was for. Solo is being suspended for all the past incidents. You know those past incidences that she wasn’t really punished for because U.S. Soccer needed her? Yes, those.

The incident that sparked the most outrage is when Solo was arrested for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge against her sister and nephew. At the time, domestic violence was in the forefront of American minds following the incidents in the NFL. Solo was slapped with 30-day ban in January 2015.

Following the suspension there was a lot of debate about a double standard due to the suspensions with many calling for Solo to be dropped from the Olympic team. The ultimate truth of the matter was, U.S. Soccer slapped Solo with a 30-day ban so it appeared they were doing something, but she would still be able to prepare and participate in the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

In short, U.S. Soccer prioritized winning the World Cup over doing the right thing.

That’s why in 2016 U.S. Soccer is using one comment to finally get rid of their headache. The way the Women’s soccer calendar works is that their two biggest tournaments come in back to back years. Once the Olympics are over there’s nothing major until the next World Cup in 2019.

Suspending Hope Solo for the next six months won’t hurt the national team long term. The U.S. only have friendlies on the schedule and since Solo is 35 years old, it gives them a great chance to find a new goalkeeper. If Solo comes back in six months and proves that she’s still the best goalkeeper the team has so be it, but over the next six months the USWNT will have the chance to establish a new number one goalkeeper and move away from Solo permanently.

Solo didn’t have the best Olympics, though losing on penalties to Sweden is hardly her fault. At this point she’s not worth the off-field headache she brings to U.S. Soccer.

Solo is far from innocent in this case but the suspension certainly doesn’t put U.S. Soccer in the best light. Time and time again U.S. Soccer is showing that they are putting their on field needs first, and doing the right thing second. If U.S. Soccer really cared about Solo’s off the field actions and how they portray the national team, they would have handed her a much harsher punishment back in 2015.

Column: U.S. Soccer prioritizes winning with Solo’s suspension

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