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But then she watched Naeher play.“When she steps over the line, she takes on the personality of one of the top goalkeepers in the world,” Dambach said. For more than two decades, elite goalkeeping has felt like a birthright of the United States squad.From 1994 to 2008, Briana Scurry made the penalty area her personal property.There was a protracted competition between Naeher and Ashlyn Harris for the No.1 spot — with questions all the while about whether Coach Jill Ellis should have done more much earlier to groom a successor — but eventually Naeher emerged the winner.Enough of a disparity in quality remains at the World Cup that the United States is expected to waltz through the group stage, but the talent gap has narrowed enough that the Americans no longer can expect to waltz into the semifinals.The veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who anchors the back line just in front of Naeher, said she was confident that Naeher’s performance, and attitude, were peaking at the right time.“What I’ve seen, probably within the last few months, is just this, for lack of a better term, badassery, where she’s just owning it now,” Sauerbrunn said.
Her ascension since Solo was ushered out of the program after the 2016 Olympics has brought with it an incessant stream of chatter about her readiness — not criticisms, precisely, more like open-ended inquiries — that she has had to parry away like any cross driven into the goal mouth. It was Scurry who helped crystallize them this year when she singled out the goalkeeping position as a potential problem area for the United States as it chases another World Cup title.“In the past, when you look at strengths and weaknesses of the U. team, goalkeeping has always been in the strength column,” she told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “and right now it’s in the question column.”Scurry’s implication was that Naeher had not been tested on the big stage.People ceased to care and she, nor Stevens, was a topic of conversation -- until today. Ideally, everyone would be happy and should they choose to marry, be happily married. Less time has been spent analyzing athletes in other sports who have been arrested themselves, sometimes for violent crimes. Morgan, Dempsey, Messi and the rest of these soccer players are left to lead their lives, have their relationships and do as they please. She has been scrutinized and judged for years, long before Stevens came into her life. We have been conditioned, told and/or compelled to care about Solo's personal life in a completely different way than we have other soccer players, certainly different than we have American soccer players and most definitely other women soccer players. Solo is an adult, capable of handling her own life without our half-baked and ill-informed judgement. You shouldn't ever be hit, nor should you or anyone else stand for it. Next story, or should we examine Tim Howard's relationships too?The United States has gathered again for a series of friendlies, bringing Solo back to the forefront. The question is why do we care about Solo's marriage? Is this odd desire to care about Solo's personal life because she is a "hot mess", as she has been called? Is this really a matter of being a "role model", a label applied to her only when it is convenient and rarely to praise her? Ellis has praised Naeher’s foot skills in particular, which make her a more active player in a unit that has tried to play the ball out of the back more, rather than just punt it downfield.Solo’s presence, and her continued popularity with fans loyal to her, sometimes still hovers over the team, but the current goalkeepers on the roster — Naeher, Harris and Adrianna Franch — have become adept at ignoring it.“There are a lot of great goalkeepers in the past who have pioneered the position, but we’re about moving forward,” Harris said.