Update, June 9, 2015, 9:25 PM: Fox broadcaster Cat Whitehill was talking about Emily van Egmond, the player whose shot Solo blocked, being sad at Solo’s skill level when she said “Van Egmond is sad that Hope Solo is as good as she is.” This article’s original interpretation that Whitehill was expressing sadness at Solo’s skill because of her personal flaws or because Whitehill had made a Freudian slip was incorrect and the headline has been updated to remove that misinterpretation.
Original Post, June 8, 2015, 10:28 PM: The United States won its opening game at the World Cup in dominating fashion on Monday, defeating Australia 3-1 to go to the top of Group D. But an impressive second-half offensive showing might never have come about had it not been for a stalwart first-half in goal from veteran keeper Hope Solo, whose performance was just one day removed from the broadcast of a damning ESPN report on her domestic abuse allegations.
Fox Sports broadcaster and former Solo teammate Cat Whitehill—once one of Solo’s closest friends, but not since a dramatic falling out—seemed to make either a verbal slip or a surprisingly frank comment when she perfectly encapsulated the ambivalence one feels in rooting for such a great goalkeeper and such an apparently flawed person: “Van Egmond is sad that Hope Solo is as good as she is,” Whitehill said after Solo made a dramatic leaping save that prevented the Matildas from taking what would have been a game-altering lead in just the fifth minute of play.*
Whitehill has been critical of Solo before, tweeting at her in 2010 that “your bitterness isn’t good for the game or your team.” But seeming to express sadness at Solo’s talent seemed to be taking the critique to a different, more earnest, dramatic, and potentially Freudian level, and perhaps she merely meant to say it’s sad how troubled a person Solo is.*
Eight minutes after that save, with the U.S. having just taken a 1-0 lead on a deflected shot by Megan Rapinoe after some sloppy defending by Australia, Solo again saved the U.S. with a one-on-one diving effort to prevent Australia’s Samantha Kerr from scoring after she had gone through on goal.
Rapinoe ended the game with two of the United States’ three goals after slotting home a gorgeous solo goal into the corner following a blazing run down the left flank in the 78th minute.
Twenty-six-year-old attacker Christen Press also scored an easy goal in her World Cup debut after a lovely set-up by Sydney Leroux. Press and Leroux each looked great in the lead-up to the tournament, with the former marking up an assist in a 3-0 win over Ireland in a May World Cup build-up match and the latter scoring twice in a 5-1 warm-up thumping of Mexico a week later. Both players seem poised for breakout tournaments.
Sweden’s disappointing 3-3 draw with Nigeria earlier in the day means that the U.S. was able to snag the all-important lead in the group of death with an early three points.
And it was the veteran leader Solo who came up biggest, earliest on. All in all, FIFA credited her with five saves and, despite the comfortable margin at the end of the match, the Americans needed all of them.
By the end of the game, Whitehill felt it necessary to acknowledge of Solo, “she’s the best in the world.”
Correction, June 9, 2015, 9:25 PM: This original post misquoted Whitehill as saying “It’s sad that Hope Solo is as good as she is.” It also said that she made a verbal slip or a surprisingly frank comment in saying so, but it just seemed that way. This post also originally stated that Whitehill had expressed sadness at Solo’s talent level.