It’s been 11 years since the U.S. Women’s National Team last played in Seattle. Back then, I was training with the team, but I didn’t make the roster for the game. What I remember from that time was thinking to myself, “One day. One day, I’ll be there playing in Seattle for my country.”
This Wednesday night, when we take CenturyLink Field against Brazil, I’ll play my first game in Seattle as a member of the USWNT. The anticipation has me thinking a lot about what that’s going to be like, and how my life has changed in the past decade or so. It also has me reflecting back on my relationship to the city and to the state, and what I truly love about them both.
Almost every day I’m home, I’ll look out our bedroom window at sunrise or sit on the back deck at sunset, and take in the landscape. The Olympic mountain range, the massive evergreen trees, the water — everything feels so vast and grand, it gives me perspective on the world. You can’t help but realize that there’s so much more to life than the pettiness and hatred that’s out there. All of that seems so silly in the face of how truly incredible the world can be. We can drive 30 minutes north and see orcas, these amazing killer whales, swimming free on the Puget Sound. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place to live, and all around you are reminders of the greater things in life.
There was a time when none of that mattered to me all that much. When I was considering where I would be going to college, I thought I was going to move far, far away just to get away from everything, and start over. I thought I had problems — my father was gone, I had issues with my mom and my stepfather — but looking back, my problems weren’t really all that bad, and it was naive to think that leaving would somehow fix them.
Going just over the mountains to the western side of Washington was never anything I planned on doing as a 17 year-old. Something pulled me to the University of Washington, and I could not be more grateful that it did. I could have chosen a different university that maybe didn’t pride itself on the learning part of school, or the human part. But I don’t think I would have learned as much — in fact, I know I wouldn’t have. It would have been all soccer. My coaches, Lesle Gallimore and Amy Griffin, they changed my life. They were really strict coaches and people. School came first. They wanted us to be good people, good teammates. And they wanted us to be responsible, even at age 18, 19, 20, 21. They held us accountable, and I loved it. Because for me, I always loved hard work. I believed in hard work, and I still do. I embraced that culture at the university, and it just continued to make me better. It helped make me a well-balanced person, and realize that there’s more to life. It also helped me learn to tackle things head-on. I learned a lot from Lesle and Amy, and I continue to.
There were so many other people who helped me at the University of Washington, too many to name, to be honest. Everyone from Barbara Hedges, our athletic director and a strong, powerful woman, to Luther, the landscaper for the soccer field — they always took the time to talk to me, and I always enjoyed the time I spent talking to them. I felt like I was influenced by these wonderful, beautiful people all the time in my time at the university. Other than family, these were some of the most important people in my life.
My relationship with Seattle has taken a lot of turns since then. When you’re a high profile athlete who’s grown up in a state, you’re written about all your life. People think they know you based on what they’ve read in the newspapers, no matter how inaccurate it actually is. There are definitely days when I wish I could meet people who don’t already have their judgment in place.
But there are other things I’m glad never change. I still love seeing the Space Needle. My NWSL team, the Seattle Reign, trains and plays at Memorial Stadium, right at the foot of the Needle, so I get to see it quite a bit. Every time, it reminds me of being with my father in the city when I was a little girl.
Jerramy and I still love going down to Pike Place to shop for fish. We get the best crab legs and scallops there. All the local fishermen know us (when I’m alone, they ask about Jerramy), so they know exactly what we’re going for — whether we’re looking for halibut or lingcod. The whole thing feels really homey to me: being among thousands of tourists, almost being one of them, and just going to the market and yukking it up with the fishermen. I love that.
I love getting on the ferries with a hot chocolate and a blanket to go see the local islands or the orcas when friends come to visit.
And I love the idea of playing for my country against Brazil at CenturyLink.
I’m giving out 40-some tickets to friends who have never been to see a USWNT game, and I’m really excited for them to see how cool it is. They may turn on the TV for the Olympic Games and the World Cup, but they’ve never been in the stadium. They’ve never seen the atmosphere or how excited the kids are, the signs and the shirts and the energy. I also got a suite for my family and friends behind one of the goals. Grandma Alice has never been behind me for a game before. She’s never seen the game the way I see it, the way she will against Brazil. I’m excited for that, too.
I can’t wait for the fans in Seattle to see me as part of the Women’s National Team, rather than just Hope Solo, goalkeeper. I’m part of a larger USWNT culture, a magnificent team with some amazing talents and personalities. And we’re really, really fun to watch.
We only will have had two days of training prior to playing Brazil, and a lot of our players have been off because they didn’t make the playoffs for the NWSL. But it doesn’t matter. We’re still players, and we’ll still give everything we have. We hate to lose, and even more than that, we hate to lose against a team like Brazil. They feel the same way. It’s always chippy and really physical. There’s always a lot of gamesmanship.
It’s going to be an awesome game, right here in Seattle. I can’t wait.