(Reuters) - On the surface the U.S. team are ticking along nicely in the Women’s World Cup in Canada, but a growing controversy over allegations surrounding goalkeeper Hope Solo are threatening to take the gloss off the team’s performances.
The U.S. came through unbeaten from the ‘Group of Death’, which included three teams in the top-10, and have striker Abby Wambach in top form, while Solo is anchoring an air-tight defense.
The team have also rediscovered their swagger as they are cheered along by the World Cup’s most vocal supporters and all the signs are indicating the Americans are progressing nicely as they face Colombia in Edmonton in the knockout phase.
Solo’s refusal to confront new allegations over a domestic abuse case, however, are causing unwanted headlines off the field.
U.S. Soccer has kept Solo away from the media while far lower profile team mates have been pushed into the spotlight even though the goalkeeper has provided some brilliant work, particularly in their opener against Australia.
As the Americans progress deeper into the tournament the scrutiny is sure to increase along with questions as to why she has been allowed to play at all despite allegations in a report by ESPN that she was the aggressor in a domestic abuse incident involving her half sister and nephew.
When charges were dismissed earlier this year, U.S. Soccer thought the controversy was put to rest but it now is threatening to become an even bigger distraction, with a politician questioning the decision to allow it to fester.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal last week called on U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati to “conduct an investigation into Solo’s case and reconsider her participation in the World Cup”.
“Domestic violence is unacceptable, particularly for an athlete representing the United States of America on the global stage,” Blumenthal said in an open letter.
So far, Solo and her team mates have not shown any hint of being distracted from the task at hand.
The U.S. have not conceded a goal in 243 minutes and Wambach, the all-time leading scorer in women’s soccer, looking dangerous as ever.
“We’re starting to find our way,” said U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd.
”We just played three tough teams, so now, going into the knockout phase, we should feel more confident.
“We should be better on the ball, hopefully create more chances, hopefully score more goals, and just kind of build each and every game.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury