The past year was one of the best in Hope Solo’s career with the United States Women’s National Team.
The year 2015 brought some incredible moments for Hope and her teammates, hitting a spectacular climax on July 5, with the USWNT’s third FIFA World Cup championship.
As the calendar turns to 2016, we take a look back at No. 1’s Top 5 moments of 2015.
No. 5 – Hope Rewrites Record Book as US Moves to Semis
The USA’s 2015 World Cup run was filled from start to finish with intriguing matches, but the USWNT’s quarterfinal win over China P.R. was a monumental one for No. 1.
Hope captured her 134th career victory, overtaking legendary American goalkeeper Briana Scurry for 1st all-time on the USWNT charts. The record-breaking win came on the strength of an outstanding performance in the frame for Hope, who recorded her fourth straight clean sheet in the 1-0 victory.
But even after rewriting the USWNT record book, Hope kept the focus on the team and the matter at hand.
“Is is strange to have these records in the World Cup because I want the focus to be on the team,” Hope told reporters. “I feel we are peaking at the right time so we are right where we need to be, so hopefully we are going to beat Germany and head into the final.”
Centerback Julie Johnston found midfielder Carli Lloyd for the game-winning goal on a header in the 51st minute, and Hope and the Department of Defense held strong throughout. The Stars and Stripes had a 17-6 edge in shots. The Americans defense forced China to take all of their chances outside of the 18 and Hope made two saves in the last 13 minutes of play to send her side forward.
After the game, American right back Ali Krieger spoke about her confidence in Hope.
“I think Hope is very happy with that. I think she is prepared no matter what. She is the best goalkeeper in the world and she is prepared and professional enough to be ready whenever that moment comes,” Krieger said. “She is always on her toes, always prepared and ready for a big play. I have no concern about that.”
No. 4 – Hope’s Seven Saves Highlight Algarve Cup Triumph
The 2015 year wasn’t all about the World Cup for the USWNT. In the spring, Hope and Co. made a run at their 10th Algarve Cup championship—and they needed a gargantuan performance from No. 1 to get the gold.
Hope made seven saves, including an incredible stop on an Amandine Henry penalty kick with just nine minutes left in regulation to preserve the team’s 2-0 victory.
The Americans got on the board early when Julie Johnston headed home the first goal of the day in the seventh minute off a Lauren Holiday assist. Christen Press added a second goal off an Amy Rodriguez pass just four minutes before halftime.
But after topping the Americans in February, France also played with plenty of confidence. Following the contest, No. 1 complimented the French team’s form, as well as Stars and Stripes head coach Jill Ellis’ game plan.
“France is a very good opponent and one of the best teams in the world. [Coach Jill Ellis] had a great game plan, we stuck to it, and had an organized defense, which led to our counter attack,” Hope told the media. “It was a better tactical game plan and we came out on top.”
That gameplan, and Hope’s play, proved to be pivotal. France bombarded the U.S. defense with 11 shots, including seven on goal. No. 1 made three key saves in an 18-minute span late in the first half. The French ladies also sent a close chance Hope’s way in the 71st minute, but No. 1 tipped it up and off the crossbar.
Hope made numerous critical stops throughout the match, but none was bigger than the penalty kick save in the 81st minute. Defender Meghan Klingenberg was whistled for a foul after grabbing Marie-Laure Delie’s arm in the penalty box. Henry took the try, but Hope read her like a book and deftly deflected the ball away to keep a clean sheet.
“I was prepared,” Hope said. “I feel comfortable. I feel good. I feel relaxed. I feel confident. Sometimes I get too intense and it makes the defenders nervous so I’ve tried to take a calmer approach.”
No. 3 – U.S. Stymies Sasic, Germany to Reach Final
The third match on the list brought another intense penalty kick.
This one taken by one of the best players in the game, Celia Sasic of Germany, in one of the year’s biggest spots: the World Cup Semifinals. But once again, the shot didn’t find the back of the net.
As a result, Hope registered her 10th clean sheet in World Cup competition, tying her with Scurry for the most in USWNT history, as the Americans seized a fifth consecutive shutout in a 2-0 victory over Germany.
The Germans sent 15 shots Hope’s way, but she was forced to make just one save: a leaping stop of a try by Alexandra Popp in the eighth minute. Not surprisingly, Hope was very complimentary of the exemplary play of her back line afterward.
“Our backline is incredible; I can’t say enough good things about them. But it’s not just our backline, we had our two holding midfielders playing so much defense,” Hope told reporters. “It’s our team defense. Players are going in hard for tackles, everybody has each other’s backs, and it feels so good right now going into the final.”
Hope’s counterpart, German keeper Nadine Angerer, made three saves, but she just couldn’t hold off the American attack. Lloyd and right back Kelley O’Hara scored the U.S. goals at the 69- and 84-minute marks.
But the key moment in the match undoubtedly came in the 60th minute. Johnston was whistled for pulling down Popp in the box, setting the stage for a Sasic penalty kick. The lethal German scorer stepped to the spot, but Hope put her off her rhythm by taking her time getting into position. No. 1 stalled as much as she could before getting set in the net—the soccer equivalent of icing the kicker. And her tactic worked. Sasic went low and to Hope’s right, but her shot skipped wide to the left. It was the first missed penalty kick at a Women’s World Cup in Germany’s history, and set the stage for two late goals from the USWNT to rally to a victory that sent them to their second consecutive World Cup Final.
No. 2 – Hope Stops Five as US Opens World Cup With Win
The USWNT entered the World Cup as the favorite to win it all, but if it wasn’t for an outstanding five-save effort from Hope, the Americans might have been off on the wrong foot.
Two goals by Megan Rapinoe (12’ and 78’) and another by Press (61’) fueled a strong day for the Americans against Australia. But on the other end of the pitch, Hope came through with one of the best individual performances of her career in the 3-1 win.
Hope was tested early and often. In the fifth minute, a ball from Australian midfielder Emily Van Egemond went through midfielder Lauren Holiday’s legs toward the goal. The nifty try by Van Egemond put Holiday in a position where she essentially screening Hope and blocking her vision, which made the save tougher. However, No. 1 was able to get two hands on it and push it against the crossbar before the defense cleared it.
“I actually thought it was going to hit my gloves and still hit the net,” Hope told reporters of the early scare. “I was more relieved than anything.”
In the 13th minute, Hope had to make a save on a volley struck by forward Samantha Kerr. She dove to her left and was able to parry it away. After the match, Rapinoe commented on No. 1’s tremendous play.
“It was a little bit of a shaky game for us especially the first 30 minutes. Hope Solo was freaking huge for us,” Rapinoe said. “I think she had, like, three saves that I don’t think anybody else in the world can make.”
The Matildas did manage to sneak one past Hope and the U.S. defense 27 minutes in. The Americans were still scrambling back into position after stopping a set piece, and Australia made the most of it. Michelle Heyman corralled the loose ball and sent it back into the box, where Lisa de Vanna one-touched it home, just inside the right post.
However, Hope remained focused. With the game tied at 1-1, she had one more tremendous stop just before the half. The goal could’ve changed the outlook of the match entirely going into the locker room, but Hope skillfully snared Servet Unzular’s free kick to keep it even.
Press broke through about 15 minutes into the second half, and Rapinoe added an insurance goal later. But as head coach Jill Ellis said afterward, it was all made possible by Hope on the back line.
“I HUGGED HER AFTERWARD—I SAID, ‘YOU GET A HUG TONIGHT.’ SHE WAS TREMENDOUS,” ELLIS SAID OF HOPE. “SHE’S THE BEST KEEPER IN THE WORLD, AND SHE’S LOOKED REALLY SHARP FOR THE LAST THREE OR FOUR MONTHS. SHE HAS HAD LASER FOCUS AND I THOUGHT THAT WAS ON DISPLAY TONIGHT. SHE WAS THE GAME-CHANGER AGAIN.”
No. 1 – USWNT Blitzes Japan to Capture the Cup
The competition for Hope’s favorite game of 2015 was no contest. When her team captured the World Cup title with a 5-2 victory against Japan, it was the greatest moment of her career.
“It felt good to believe in this team. It’s been 16 long years,” Hope said. “It’s been a wild journey, it’s been heartbreaking at times, it’s been emotional, it’s been a struggle, but we never took our eyes off the prize. And here we are, able to say we’re World Cup champions.”
Four years after the Americans fell in heartbreaking fashion on penalty kicks to the women from Japan in the World Cup final, the USWNT made sure — right from the start in the rematch — they would get their revenge.
Just three minutes into the game, Carli Lloyd scored her first goal. Two minutes later, she had another. And just 16 minutes into the game, Lloyd had a hat trick, and thanks to another goal from Lauren Holiday, the USWNT held a commanding 4-0 lead.
Hope made three saves over the course of the match to help her lifelong dream come true. The U.S. squad had its ups and downs through the lead-up and the tournament, but Hope never lost faith that her squad would realize their destiny.
“I never doubted it. Last night, I knew we had to have a good performance, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t have any doubt,” No. 1 told the media. “I feel like it was our destiny, and we made it happen.”