Solo is the U.S.'s best Hope

Goalkeeper Hope Solo of the U.S. reacts during their Women's World Cup Group C soccer match against...

Goalkeeper Hope Solo of the U.S. reacts during their Women's World Cup Group C soccer match against North Korea in Dresden June 28, 2011. (REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz)

BRIAN WESTFALL, SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 4:04 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA - United States goalkeeper Hope Solo sat on the bench with her arms folded across her chest and a menacing glare etched on her face, painting an odd picture of the best women's goalkeeper in the world.

That was four years ago in China, during a Women's World Cup semifinal, that a foolish decision by former U.S. coach Greg Ryan left Solo planted on the bench in her green No. 18 jersey as the old No. 1 received an unwarranted farewell.

Brianna Scurry, a World Cup winner in 1999, allowed four goals against Brazil, as the Americans' pursuit of a third title ended with the worst defeat in the program's history, 4-0.

Solo started the previous four matches, posted shutouts in the previous three, and was more confident than Muhammad Ali after the loss that had she started - Brazil would not have won. Heck, Brazil would not have even scored.

"It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that," Solo said four years ago.

"There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves."

Scurry left her mark on the U.S. as its top goalie for years, and it's easy to forget she saved a penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup final against China that gave Brandi Chastain the opportunity to convert the winning penalty.

It's easy to forget Scurry was 12-0 all-time against Brazil, including the gold medal match of the 2004 Olympics and a 2-0 win in a friendly just three months before the 2007 World Cup.

But Scurry's star status dimmed long before the last World Cup.

And Solo was correct to say after that match four years ago that, "You have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names.

"You can't live in the past."

Ryan admitted four years ago that Solo was "a young, very talented 'keeper who will, I'm sure, lead this team many years into the future."

Fast forward four years to the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany, and Solo has the chance - finally - to etch her own legacy and erase the past. But she's on a tightrope right now.

Solo and the U.S. play Brazil on Sunday in the Women's World Cup quarterfinals in Dresden, Germany.

Although Solo - who played brilliantly - and the U.S. beat Brazil in the final of the 2008 Olympics, women's teams - and players - are measured by World Cup performances.

And if Solo fails to deliver another great performance against Brazil, it will send the U.S. home from the World Cup before the semifinals - a level Scurry played at in four World Cups (1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007) - for the first time.

"If we come to play and play as a team we can come out on top," Solo said just after a 2-1 loss to Sweden in the Americans' last group match on Wednesday set up the early showdown with Brazil.

Solo, now 29, joined the politically correct over the last four years, as far as knowing what to say and when to say it. But make no mistake, this game will take a Solo effort.

No matter how well the U.S. plays as a team, Brazilian stars Marta - the five- time world player of the year - and Cristiane (among others) will get a couple open looks against Solo.

They did against Scurry, as Marta scored twice and Cristiane once. And really, there may not be a goalkeeper in the world - men's or women's - who could have prevented those goals.

Now it's up to Solo to prove she "would have made those saves." Only then will Solo start to erase the past, and earn the redemption she needs from 2007.


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