Hope Solo accomplished a lifelong dream in Canada, where she helped guide the United States Women’s National Team to an inspiring FIFA World Cup championship victory. But the Seattle Reign goalkeeper is still eyeing one more noteworthy objective: bringing the National Women’s Soccer League title to the Emerald City.
Hope and her USWNT and Reign FC teammate, Megan Rapinoe, returned home for a champion’s welcome on Saturday, July 11th and they watched as their club teammates toppled the Western New York Flash 4-2. During the festivities, the Golden Glove-winning goalkeeper told a sellout crowd at Moda Pitch at Memorial Stadium about the next target on the duo’s list.
“Pinoe and I are World Cup champions, but I have to tell you we are selfish,” Hope said. “We’ve won Olympic gold medals, we now are world champions, but we want the NWSL championship to be here in Seattle.”
The Seattle Reign are well on their way toward getting a chance to accomplish that objective.
The squad is currently sitting in a tie atop the NWSL standings with the Chicago Red Stars, each with 21 points, despite spending several games without the star keeper and scorer, Hope and Rapinoe.
While the USWNT’s net-minder and playmaker were in Canada, the rest of the Reign continued the team’s excellence. The ladies are currently riding an eight-game unbeaten streak dating back to a 1-0 loss to FC Kansas City on April 23. During the June 6-July 11 period, the Reign have posted four victories, one tie and zero losses without their two stars.
But they were happy to have the dynamic duo back in Seattle in Saturday, even if it was just to provide support in their defeat of the Flash. The two players met with fans at Memorial Stadium and were honored by their NWSL club before the game.
After dominating Japan 4-2 in the World Cup Final, the Americans spent an exciting and exhausting week traveling and celebrating from coast to coast. The victory celebrations included a rally in Los Angeles on Tuesday, as well as a ticker-tape parade in New York City on Friday. Hope and Co. became the first women’s sports team to earn a parade down the Canyon of Heroes in NYC.
The following day, Hope and Pinoe headed back across country, where they watched their Reign teammates use four second-half goals to rally and beat the Flash. After the media frenzy, Rapinoe noted that it was nice to be home.
“It’s home, this is home,” Rapinoe said. “We went straight from the game into the locker room, and that was amazing. Straight from there to our after party with friends and family, and then straight to L.A., which was incredible. Home for less than 24 hours, straight to New York, which was just absolutely amazing, I was just stunned, but there’s nothing like coming back home. Playing in front of my home crowd, and the club that I love to play for, this club means so much to me. This is really special to be able to do this tonight, and be able to come home and celebrate with the people who are here for me day in and day out in the place that I actually live.”
The duo not only spoke about coming home, but their emotions of lifting the World Cup Trophy and dealing with great expectations.
“It had been 16 years, we had put our heart, our soul, everything into the game, and then to finally come out on top, it felt triumphant, and it felt beautiful and incredible,” Hope told Amy Griffin in an interview for Seattle Reign FC. “But, I wasn’t like jumping up and down and celebrating, it was more like, Oh my God, this really happened.”
Facing a group stage gauntlet that included fifth-ranked Sweden, 10th-ranked Australia, and Nigeria, the Americans did not score at an impressive clip, but they were carried by the play of their defense. Hope and the quartet of defenders in front of her locked down the goal box and after an early score from Australia in the opener they held the opposition scoreless for the rest of the group stage. With the defense playing flawlessly, the USWNT hit their stride in the knockout stage. After a first round victory over Columbia, they toppled China with another shutout in the quarterfinals and never looked back, bolting past Germany and Japan to win the World Cup.
“I think we always had that belief in us. We knew that there was more in the tank, but there was also so many things we were doing well. She let in one goal in the first six games. Defense was playing amazing, so there’s so many things that it takes to win a world championship, that we were already doing,” Rapinoe said. “I mean people want to look at the sexy stuff, and look at the goals and the attacking, but we had things on lock before. We loosened up a little bit, we tweaked a couple of things, and people grew into themselves, and the team grew into themselves during the tournament.”
While the team’s growth throughout the tournament proved absolutely vital, Hope also identified another key factor in the team’s run: the support they received from the fans that traveled to Canada and those who watched back home in the U.S.
Hope praised the USWNT fans upon her return to Seattle, and the Reign faithful sent the love right back her way.
“We would not have won the World Cup without such incredible fans,” Hope told the sellout crowd.
— Ty Nguyen (@KING5_Ty) July 12, 2015
— Jill Espiritu (@Storee16) July 12, 2015
— Marjorie (@marjoriej5) July 12, 2015
— Stefanie Golan (@MNCoachGolan) July 12, 2015
— GeeLZ (@gee3007) July 12, 2015
— Kim Triplett (@gunnarcolbys) July 12, 2015
— Seattle Reign FC (@ReignFC) July 12, 2015
Do they look excited?! Hope Solo works the crowd after returning from World Cup pic.twitter.com/slJ6gs9dMI
— Nick McGurk (@NickMcGurkTV) July 12, 2015
- Reign fans welcome Solo, Rapinoe back home (KREM 2, July 12, 2015)
- Sold out crowd welcomes home World Cup champions (Komo News, July 12, 2015)
- Seattle Reign welcome back U.S. stars with 4-2 win (Sounder At Heart, July 11, 2015)
- Reign FC rallies, beats Western New York 4-2 (Seattle Times, July 11, 2015)