One afternoon shortly before leaving for Canada to compete in the Women’s World Cup, Hope Solo made it quite clear that she’s got a heck of a lot riding on the outcome of Sunday’s final against Japan.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done in my career,” Solo told PEOPLE. “But I don’t think I’ll ever feel great about it unless we win a World Cup.”
Sitting on the deck behind her home in Seattle, Solo, widely regarded as the planet’s greatest female goalkeeper, was in a reflective mood.
“That’s sad if you think about it – that the only way I’ll be worthy is if I win a World Cup after so many great years and two (Olympic) Gold medals,” she says. “But something would just be missing if we don’t win a World Cup.”
The last time United States women’s team – and Solo – found themselves in the World Cup finals was in 2011. And they lost to Japan on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw.
This year’s competition, which could yield the U.S. women’s team its third World Cup title, started out with Solo’s impressive on-field performances being overshadowed by a series of revelations from her 2014 arrest over domestic violence allegations. Her training as a goal-keeper, she insists, helped keep her focused during her tumultuous past year.
“I’ve got a good mentality for being a goalkeeper,” says Solo, who now holds the record for the most wins and most appearances by an American goalkeeper. “And that mentality is knowing how to deal with pressure.”
Being known as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, she confesses, is something of a double-edged sword. “It kind of sucks being labeled that, but it’s also an honor,” she says. “It’s humbling, but it comes with the highest of expectations. I think goalkeeping is the toughest position in all of sports. Even if we win, if there’s been a goal, it doesn’t feel good.”
And just in case you’re wondering, Solo “very rarely” dreams about soccer. “But when I do,” she says, “I’m making saves.”