Days before the United States women’s national team begins their World Cup defense, Hope Solo has stirred up some drama. The former USWNT goalkeeper joined the BBC’s Football Daily podcast over the weekend to discuss her former team’s chances, and when asked about coach Jill Ellis’s lineups, she said, “I don’t agree a lot with Jill Ellis, to be quite honest.”
Solo continued, saying Ellis was “not the leader I wish her to be. 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.” When a host asked Solo whether the team had been winning in spite of Ellis, she agreed that they had.
Solo, who won the 2015 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 Olympics with the USWNT, singled out Ellis’s overly careful management of her players’ confidence, claiming Ellis wouldn’t show goals scored on the team during Olympic film sessions out of fear of upsetting anyone. “Jill didn’t have that quality, she didn’t bring that sense of leadership to us,” Solo said. “You could tell that, perhaps she didn’t show us the goals because perhaps her nerves were getting the best of her. So for me, Jill never had that leadership quality.”
She said players were frustrated “behind the scenes,” though it’s worth pointing out that the USWNT only gave up three goals in their disappointing 2016 run, one of which came on a counterattack while the other two were free kick goals. You may recall the more infamous of the pair.
Solo’s national team career went up in flames after those Olympics, when she had her contract terminated for calling Sweden “a bunch of cowards.” She was also arrested in for domestic violence in 2014 for allegedly fighting her sister and nephew, and was a passenger in a borrowed team vehicle in 2015 when her husband was arrested for drunk driving.
Ellis brushed off Solo’s criticism today, saying, “Comments are comments. 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.”