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Charles Cuttone


July 29, 2012
All for One?

Hope Solo is probably the best women’s goalkeeper in the world. But there is something Solo is even better at than stopping opponents’ shots---stirring up controversy.

The latest is a series of tweets attacking NBC Sports broadcaster and former U.S. National Team defender Brandi Chastain.

Apparently Chastain was critical of the U.S. team’s defending during Saturday’s Olympic match against Colombia , prompting Solo to tweet:
“Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game.

“ Lay off commentating about defending and gking until you get more educated @brandichastain the game has changed from a decade ago.”

“ Its important 2 our fans 2 enjoy the spirit of the olympics.Its not possible when sum1 on air is saying that a player is the worst defender!

“I feel bad 4 our fans that have 2 push mute, especially bc @arlowhite is fantastic.@brandichastain should be helping 2 grow the sport “

Pretty strong stuff for 144 characters or less.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, Brandi is a friend, and the parent company of this web site at one time had a business relationship with her.

I didn’t hear Chastain’s supposed criticism of the U.S. women. But she is a commentator. It’s her job.

I’ve had many conversations with Chastain about soccer, and feel confident saying she has probably forgotten more soccer than Solo will ever know. She is a long-time student of the game at all levels. And as for Solo’s comment that Chastain should be helping to grow the sport, she and the players of her era did just that, and the current crop of national teamers have spent their careers benefitting from it.

But that’s not the point. And I am not defending Chastain or her comments, since I didn’t hear them.

The point is there seems to be a prevailing “us vs. them” feeling within U.S. Soccer the organization and U.S. soccer lower case, and that any criticism of a team, player, official, or anything to have to do with the sport means you are against the sport and helping it grow.

I am not talking about the soccer-bashing columns that still, invariably, pop up in newspapers, or the snide comments from TV sports anchors you hear from time to time. I am talking about actual, legitimate criticism.

The fact is, if the sport is to continue to grow, it needs that kind of criticism, and the participants and powers that be within the sport need to be secure enough in what they are doing to accept that not everyone sees things the way they do, and indeed might have a legitimate point now and then. It’s interesting to me that Solo should be in the center of this particular controversy, having been on the receiving end of some U.S. soccer close-mindedness after what I’m sure she felt was legitimate criticism of then-national team coach Greg Ryan’s decision to bench her in favor of Briana Scurry in the World Cup 2007 semifinal against Brazil. Commentators and columnists need to make those criticisms. That’s our job. Certainly more than it was Hope Solo’s job to criticize her coach and throw Scurry under the bus.

There were plenty of reporters who agreed with Solo on that. I don’t recall her thanking any of them for sticking up for her. In her comments, Solo appears to be sticking up for her teammates, and would be fine. But is that what she’s really doing? After all, her comments now make her once again the center of attention. Which seems to be how she really likes it.

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