BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) For Hope Solo, the firsts keep coming.
On Saturday, barring anything unusual, Solo will appear in her 200th game for the U.S. women’s national team in a group stage match against France at the Rio Olympics (4 p.m. ET — Watch live on NBCSN and NBCOlympics.com). She’ll be the first goalkeeper in history to reach the milestone in international play – no small feat.
It also will make her the 11th U.S. player – across all positions – to reach that number of caps.
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“As a goalkeeper, I think she’s the best one in the world,” France coach Philippe Bergeroo said. “She’s always good for the U.S. even when the team is in difficult times.”
The 200th cap is just the latest notable statistic for Solo in a long, illustrious and always interesting career.
Last month, Solo became the first goalkeeper with 100 international shutouts when the United States defeated South Africa 1-0 at Chicago’s Soldier Field. It was also her 150th career win.
About a year ago, Solo won her second straight Golden Glove Award for the best goalkeeper at the Women’s World Cup, which the United States won. Over the course of the tournament in Canada she had five clean sheets and allowed just three goals in seven games.
And just earlier this week, 16-year national team veteran got her 101st shutout when the United States defeated New Zealand 2-0 in the team’s Olympic opener in Belo Horizonte.
“Hope is obviously such an experienced player. And having been through so many world tournaments – the limelight, the pressure, and the focus that’s on you – it’s an incredible resource to have her back there,” U.S. defender Meghan Klingenberg said. “It’s also a safety net we fall back on: We try to make things as easy as possible for her, but we know that we have someone who is world class in the next behind us.”
Along the way she’s vocally advocated for women’s rights. Solo was among the U.S. players who filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for wage discrimination, saying the men’s national team players have been paid much more than many on the women’s team, which for years has out-performed the U.S. men on the international stage.
More recently, she’s called for better conditions for players in the National Women’s Soccer League.
But the former “Dancing with the Stars” contestant has also seen her share of controversy – and the Rio Games have been no exception. She riled some Brazilians when she posted photo of herself decked out in mosquito netting and armed with insecticide, with the caption: “Not sharing this!!! Get your own! (hashtag) zikaproof.
As a result, fans at the group stage opener in Belo Horizonte booed her every time she touched the ball, and at one point jeered her with chants of “Zi-ka! Zi-ka!”
“I’m glad the fans had fun,” Solo said following the game. “And if they had fun at my expense, more power to them.”
For now, all that drama is outside noise. The focus for the U.S. is winning a fourth straight gold medal in the sport. The Americans are also vying to be the first team to win at the Olympics after winning the World Cup.
“Hope Solo is solid when it comes to focusing on the games. She’s 100 percent focused on the games,” Klingenberg said. “Regardless of what happens – regardless of the cheers, the chants, whatever – I know she’s focused on what she’s here to do. And that’s to be goalkeeper for the United States and play the best that she can.”