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Commentary Jul 28, 2012

In Chastain’s defense, Solo’s rant way off base

By Jimmy LaRoue

Hope Solo is not one to be quiet when she feels aggrieved, but she picked the wrong fight in going after Brandi Chastain’s comments about the U.S. women’s national team’s defending during its 3-0 win over Colombia Saturday.

Mind you, the two have some recent history after Chastain, speaking to Larry Brown Sports, deigned to warn her publicly after Solo’s positive drug test three weeks ago for the banned substance Canrenone, which the goalkeeper said happened because it was premenstrual medication prescribed by her doctor.

During the game, Chastain made an observation about defender Rachel Buehler giving the ball away too easily and that she would need to work on it. Relatively benign criticism, as far as criticism goes. She said the following about what a defender needed to do, talking about Buehler:

“Defend. Win the ball, and then keep possession. And that’s something that Rachel Buehler actually needs to, I think, improve on in this tournament.”

However, Solo didn’t see it that way. Far from it.

It started with this:

“Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game @brandichastain! #fb”

Then:

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

And …

“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!”

Solo’s rant ended (for now?), with this:

“I feel bad 4 our fans that have 2 push mute, especially bc @arlowhite is [email protected] should be helping 2 grow the sport #fb”

Let’s look at these comments one by one. In the first comment, she has a couple of things worth dissecting.

First, Chastain is not there to “represent” the team. She has a duty as a commentator to offer her observations and analysis on the teams that are on the field, not to be an out-and-out cheerleader and apologist for the U.S. team. And saying a defender needs to take care of the ball is about as benign a comment as you’ll hear from soccer analysts.

The second part of Solo’s comment in the first tweet, and in the second tweet, where she says Chastain doesn’t know enough about defending is ludicrous. Chastain played soccer at a high level for more than 15 years, earning 192 caps for the national team and being an integral part in trying to raise awareness and creating opportunities in women’s soccer for people like Solo.

I think Chastain’s career record can stand on its own, and I think she knows a thing or two about defending that makes her worthy of being critical about it. It’s not as if Chastain has been in a bubble in the last 10 years as the game has changed.

Solo’s third tweet about how fans can’t enjoy the spirit of the Olympics when “sum1” is on air saying that “a player is the worst defender!” is unfair since Chastain never said that about Buehler or anyone else on the U.S. team.

And finally, if we were going to push the mute button, it would have been for much of NBC’s commentary (particularly Meredith Viera’s) during the opening ceremonies, not for anything Chastain had to say.

Looking at Chastain’s skills as an analyst is fair game. Calling her out for benign criticism and her knowledge of the game is not. Solo is way off base there and is the one who should be apologizing for her comments that can only be seen as distracting, at best, and most definitely wrong. If Solo’s trying to draw attention to her upcoming book, “A Memoir of Hope,” perhaps she’s done it, but if what she says in the book is as accurate as her Twitter rant, I’m not sure it’ll be worth reading.

At some point, Solo will likely come out and say something about how she was simply trying to stick up for a teammate, and not go after one of the all-time great defenders in the women’s game, but if she goes there, it’ll just ring hollow and will be a poor defense for her rant. While she was justified in 2007 for criticizing then-coach Greg Ryan for benching her in favor of Brianna Scurry, Solo unjustifiably ripped another great U.S. women’s soccer legend in the process.

What needs to happen is for Solo to offer a contrite apology to Chastain and to fans for creating an unnecessary distraction and disparaging Chastain’s educated observation of a player’s defensive abilities.

Chastain’s not above reproach for her abilities as a commentator, but she shouldn’t be silenced because Solo believes she should be a U.S. apologist. If Chastain’s wrong in her critique, then maybe Solo can go to the DVR and prove her wrong.

Chastain shouldn’t be wearing pom-pons for the U.S. team. She needs to call things as she sees them, whether we agree with her or not.

Maybe, just maybe, Solo is the one that needs an education–about Chastain’s illustrious career and accomplishments as a defender that gives her the authority to speak about it.

Solo’s ill-timed rant just comes across as immature, petulant, and flat out wrong.

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