World Cup roundup: U.S. Soccer defends handling of Solo

Associated Press

Winnipeg, Manitoba — The head of U.S. Soccer defended the federation's handling of goalkeeper Hope Solo's domestic assault case in a letter to U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal on Friday night.

Solo was charged with two misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree domestic violence assault stemming from an altercation last June with her sister and 17-year-old nephew at a family gathering in Kirkland, Washington. A judge dismissed the charges earlier this year.

Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote to U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati on Thursday regarding Solo, calling domestic violence "unacceptable, particularly for an athlete representing the United States of America on the global stage."

Solo is currently starting for the U.S. women's national team at the World Cup in Canada. The U.S. played to a 0-0 draw with Sweden in a group-stage match on Friday night. She did not speak to reporters following the match.

Gulati's response said U.S. Soccer investigated the matter as thoroughly as it could at the time, but its approach was guided by limited access to information and contradictory accounts of the incident, as well as legal concerns.

"The federation has been a long-standing leader in the pursuit of gender equity in sport — a role of which we are quite proud," Gulati wrote. "Accordingly, rest assured that the federation considered domestic and family violence a very serious matter. The federation understands its role and obligation as the national governing body for the sport of soccer and will continue to investigate and address such issues as they arise."

Blumenthal's letter came in the wake of an ESPN report that brought new information about Solo's arrest to light, including allegations that the goalkeeper was combative with police officers. Solo pleaded innocent to the charges.

ESPN said the report was based on police records, two sworn depositions obtained by the network program "Outside the Lines," other documents and interviews with one of Solo's alleged victims. It said Solo had been drinking when she arrived at the home of her half-sister, Teresa Obert, and was the aggressor in the altercation, including slamming the teenager's head into the floor.

Solo's lawyer, in response to a question from ESPN about the reports, responded with a statement saying: "Police reports and other court documents clearly demonstrate that the alleged victims radically changed their stories on multiple occasions and twice refused to answer questions under oath, despite court orders. Had the case proceeded to trial and the witnesses been cross-examined under oath subject to the penalty of perjury, the defense would have proven that Teresa's son, not Hope, was the true aggressor, and that Hope suffered a concussion as a result of her nephew's unlawful conduct."

The ESPN report came the day before the U.S. team and its star goalkeeper opened play at the Women's World Cup in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The monthlong event is being played across six Canadian cities.

Gulati said U.S. Soccer did not suspend Solo because statements made by her half-sister and nephew were inconsistent, but he acknowledges that the federation never spoke to the relatives. U.S. Soccer, relying on the advice of counsel, decided to let the case play out.

Gulati's response acknowledged that new information was presented in the ESPN report that the federation did not have initially. That information was contained in records that were sealed.

He said U.S. Soccer is looking at the new information.

Following the ESPN report's release, U.S. coach Jill Ellis said the team was not impacted.

"I'll be honest, we've moved on," Ellis said. "She's been a fantastic player and teammate. None of that has even resonated with us, and I'm sure many of the players aren't aware of it."

Friday's matches

Australia 2, Nigeria 0: Kyah Simon scored twice to lead Australia to a victory over Nigeria in a group stage match at the Women's World Cup in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Simon beat Nigeria goalkeeper Precious Dede on a feed from Lisa De Vanna to put the Matildas up 1-0 in the 29th minute. She then found herself unguarded in the front of the goal to put away Samantha Kerr's arcing cross in the 68th minute.

Australia, ranked No. 10 in the world, fell 3-1 to the second-ranked United States in its Group D opener. The Matildas have been to six World Cups, with a best finish of sixth in 2007.

But they were hurt in the win when Kerr was elbowed in the jaw late in the match. The referee did not see it.

Australia coach Alen Stajcic said the team's 21-year-old star striker would be X-rayed on Friday night to determine if her jaw was broken.

Nigeria coach Edwin Okon said the elbow was not intentional.

Nigeria, ranked No. 33, surprised fifth-ranked Sweden in the opener, coming back from a 2-0 deficit for a 3-3 tie. The perennial African champion Super Falcons have been to all seven Women's World Cups. Their best finish was a quarterfinal appearance in 1999.

Japan 2, Cameroon 1: Aya Sameshima scored in the 6th minute as defending champion Japan became the first team at the women's World Cup to secure a berth in the knockout stage with a victory over Cameroon in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Yuika Sugasawa added a header off a cross by Aya Miyama in the 17th minute for Japan (2-0), which held on for the win despite a strong performance by Cameroon — which scored in the 90th minute after a strong run and shot by Ajara Nchout.

Cameroon nearly tied the game in stoppage time on a header by Gaelle Enganamouit, but her shot missed just to the left.

Japan plays its final group stage match against Ecuador on Tuesday, while Cameroon (1-1) faces Switzerland.

Switzerland 10, Ecuador 1: Fabienne Humm and Ramona Bachmann both had second-half hat tricks as Switzerland earned its first women's World Cup victory with a lopsided victory over Ecuador at Vancouver, British Columbia.

Humm's three goals came within 6 minutes early in the second half, the first coming on a powerful strike from outside the penalty box in the 47th minute to put Switzerland up 3-0. Bachmann capped her scoring binge in the 81st minute for Switzerland's 10th goal.

Eseosa Aigbogun and Martina Moser added goals for Switzerland, which opened with a 1-0 defeat to defending champion Japan on Monday.

Angie Ponce scored Ecuador's first World Cup goal on a penalty kick in the 64th minute.

Switzerland (1-1) faces Cameroon in its final group stage match on Tuesday, while Ecuador (0-2) takes on Japan