USWNT head coach Jill Ellis has taken the high road.
Ahead of the U.S. women’s national team kicking off their 2019 World Cup campaign against Thailand in Reims on Tuesday, former USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo has been critical of Ellis.
The legendary goalkeeper, who had her contract cancelled by U.S. Soccer back in 2016 over disciplinary reasons, lashed out at Ellis when talking on the BBC in her role as a pundit for the tournament.
“Jill is not the leader I wish her to be,” Solo said. “She relies heavily on her assistant coaches. She cracks under the pressure quite a bit. But often that doesn’t matter because the quality of the players on the U.S. team is superb. It doesn’t matter who is coaching us because we will find a way to win. The United States knows how to find a way to win in spite of who the coach is.”
Tell us how you really feel, Hope…
But Ellis, who led the USWNT to the World Cup title in 2015 with Solo in goal, hasn’t risen to the bait.
Speaking to the media ahead of their tournament opener, Ellis tried to play down the comments and labelled Solo as a ‘pundit’ and nothing else.
“Comments are comments. For me, personally, I feel over the past five years I’ve made a lot of important decisions and I have processes to make those decisions, and I own those processes,” Ellis said. “At this point, everything and every focus is about this group of players that are here and now. Pundits, out there, that’s part of it. And part of the message is always to make sure that the focus is on the internal part of the game. And that’s where we are.”
Ellis won the 2015 World Cup just months after she was handed a permanent contract after being in interim charge, and since then she’s had plenty of critics as the USWNT were knocked out of the Rio 2016 Olympics by Sweden at the quarterfinal stage. A few U.S. hiccups have occurred while the rest of the women’s soccer world has caught up at the international level with England, the Netherlands and France all pushing on and among the favorites to prevail this summer.
The pressure is on Ellis and the USWNT to defend their crown, and she knows it. Ellis doesn’t need Solo or anybody else to crank up any extra pressure, because everyone expects this USWNT to win the trophy in France. Solo’s differences with this current USWNT and the U.S. Soccer Federation is clear, but Ellis did well to not respond too strongly and add any further fuel to the fire.