CHICAGO (AP) As if her list of accomplishments wasn’t long enough already, Hope Solo has a chance to add another one on Saturday.
If Solo posts a shutout when the U.S. women meet South Africa at Soldier Field, she will have an even 100. And don’t think she sees it as just another number.
“I’m excited,” she said Friday. “It’s something I’m really proud of. But it’s more about the journey. It’s not just one game, whether it’s against South Africa and Costa Rica. Whenever it happens, it’s been a long road and a long journey so it’s something I’m very proud of.”
Solo has soared to heights no other U.S. goalkeeper has reached with more victories than any other, not to mention a World Cup championship and two Olympic gold medals. She made a memorable late save against Japan, stopping a powerful shot from Mana Iwabuchi, to preserve a 2-1 victory in the final of the London Games.
With the U.S. gearing up for another Olympic run, Solo will try to create another memory. She has a chance to do it in Chicago, where the NFL’s Bears built their foundation on shutting down opponents.
It would be quite an accomplishment for a goalkeeper who has been piling up shutouts for 16 years. Solo’s first came in an 8-0 win over Iceland in Davidson, North Carolina, in April 2000, and the list has been growing since.
It includes 28 countries – 10 each against Canada and Mexico. Ten have come in the World Cup and six in the Olympics.
She has 46 on U.S. soil, 53 abroad. And when Solo posts a clean sheet, the U.S. is 90-0-9 with a 275-0 scoring edge.
“It’s remarkable,” coach Jill Ellis said. “We had a history of having tremendous goalkeepers in our program over the years. But that consistency. I know Hope would fully also credit the people playing, but she’s extraordinary. I was thinking about the Olympics the other day, and her performance in the final in London was just remarkable. … She continues to have big moments where she’s a game-changer for us so to reach that number, it’s quite extraordinary.”
Solo’s pursuit of her 100th shutout isn’t the only story surrounding the team. FIFA World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd and midfielder Megan Rapinoe are trying to work their way back from knee injuries.
Ellis said Lloyd will be “available to play” Saturday. But a recent quad pull might keep out Rapinoe, who’s working her way back from a torn right ACL.
Lloyd sprained her right knee while playing for the Houston Dash against the Orlando Pride in a National Women’s Soccer League match in late April. The Grade 1 MCL sprain was expected to take three to six weeks to heal. But with the Olympics approaching, she is not rushing her return.
The injury has given her a bit of a breather after a dizzying period. Lloyd came to prominence when she scored a hat trick in the first 16 minutes of last summer’s World Cup victory over Japan.
After that, she played in the team’s victory tour. She got showered with sponsorship deals and requests for appearances. She received her sport’s highest honor.
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She has been taking full contact in practice. And Ellis hopes a more rested Lloyd will be a better Lloyd.
“What I hope it will add is there will be a freshness about her,” Ellis said. “The other players have obviously been playing in the league. It’s not just the games, it’s the travel. For Carli, I think what she may have lost in terms of just the past few weeks, I think she will gain in terms of having legs and energy.”
As for Rapinoe, the quad issue was a recent development. She also has some tightness in her calf.
“Sometimes when you come back from an injury, it’s not specifically the injury itself,” Ellis said. “At times, it’s just the general body getting back into it.”