It's been four years -- four long years -- since Hope Solo lost her chance to face Brazil in a Women's World Cup. In 2007, after guiding the United States Women's National team to the World Cup semifinals, Solo was sent to the bench, the victim of what then head coach Greg Ryan called a gut feeling. He wanted experience in net against a dangerous Brazilian squad and benched Solo in favor of Brianna Scurry. The United States was hammered, 4-0, and Solo was steamed.
Her comments after the game drew the ire of her teammates and fans. It took time for the wounds to heal, both for Solo and for the women's national team. Since then, Solo has been steady in net for the American side, and came into the 2011 Women's World Cup with the full confidence of her coach and team. On Sunday, she showed why with a performance that earned her redemption for the 2007 slight, along with the adoration of viewers across the country.
Solo wasn't perfect, but she was pretty close to it, conceding just two goals in the 120 minute match against Brazil. She faced adversity, stopping a penalty kick only to see a retake awarded for a ticky-tack, at best, infraction. The second attempt was good, knotting the score at one in the second half and eventually forcing 30 minutes of extra time.
In the extra frame, Solo conceded a second goal, coming off a beautiful strike from Marta that left her powerless to make a stop. It looked bleak for the American side as they faced elimination while pushing for a goal. And while Solo had nothing to do with Abby Wambach's 122nd minute equalizer, it did put the power in her hands, giving her the spotlight as the Women's World Cup quarterfinal headed to a penalty shootout.
The first two strikes from Brazil were good, but matched by the American shooters. On the third, though, she had a feeling as she read Daiane while preparing for the kick. The first two Brazilian attempts had gone to Solo's right, and Daiane tried to make it three. Solo laid-out with full extension, punching away the shot for the first, and only, save of the shootout.
It was a save her teammates knew she'd make, and it gave her a sweet bit of redemption for the 2007 Women's World Cup.
"Hope, amazing. She's the best goalkeeper in the world," said U.S. captain Christie Rampone. "We kept saying, 'Hope's going to get one. Hope's going to get one. We just have to finish them off.'"
In an instant, Solo became a hero, erasing the memories of four years ago. Her work, and the work of the American squad, isn't done, but the team took a huge step forward on Sunday, beating one of the favorites to win it all.