Hope Solo, goalkeeper of the U.S. World Cup team, will be the first women’s soccer player on the cover of Sports Illustrated in eight years when this week’s edition hits the newsstands Wednesday.
It is a bittersweet distinction as a somber Solo stares out above the headline “Heart and Heartbreak.” The story details the emotional rollercoaster of Team USA’s stirring run to the Cup Finals, from the improbable comeback against Brazil to the stunning defeat against Japan.
Solo is one of six members of the U.S. team who play for the magicJack, a Boca Raton-based club in the Women’s Professional Soccer league. The group, including Cup standouts Abby Wambach and Christine Rampone, will return this week to the magicJack, which plays their next home game July 27 at FAU Soccer Stadium.
The last women’s soccer player to grace a cover of Sports Illustrated was Mia Hamm on Sept. 22, 2003, under the heading, “The Reluctant Superstar.”
This week’s cover wasn’t what Solo and her teammates envisioned as they twice protected leads Sunday that would have given the U.S. women their third World Cup.
The story quotes midfielder Carli Lloyd: “I’m kind of in shock. I had no doubt [about winning]. When we went up a goal in regulation time, I’m like O.K., we’ve got 10 more minutes I knew we’d close it out. Then we score in overtime and I’m like O.K, we’ve got five minutes left. Then they equalize again. Even when we were stepping up taking penalty kicks, we’re like, We’ve got this. Maybe it just wasn’t our time.”
Where does the defeat leave women’s soccer in the United States?
Rick Chandler of msnbc.com offered the opinion that the minimal criticism in the wake of the U.S. Cup collapse is evidence that women’s sports haven’t attained equality with men’s, or at least aren’t viewed with the same importance. Chandler mused about the reaction a similar failure by a men’s basketball team led by LeBron James would receive:
“Can you imagine the dump truck-load of grief he and his teammates would receive in the media? For one thing, he wouldn’t be allowed back into this country, except disguised as a woman (imagine the confusion in the TSA pat-down line). The smoke and heat from all the LeBron jerseys being burned would melt the polar ice cap, resulting in catastrophic flooding.”