Four years ago, American goalkeeper Hope Solo was the talk of the FIFA Women's World Cup for all of the wrong reasons.
The U.S. cruised through the first four matches of the competition, with Solo registering three shutouts and conceding just two goals.
But American coach Greg Ryan opted in the semifinal to start veteran Briana Scurry, who was undefeated in 12 previous games against Brazil, including the gold medal game at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The goalkeeping switch backfired, though, as Scurry looked rusty between the posts and was at fault on Brazil's second goal, after being beaten by a harmless shot from Marta. The favoured Americans were routed 4-0, and an angry Solo vented her frustration after the game in an exclusive interview with CBC Sports.
"It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that," Solo said. "There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves.
"And the fact of the matter is, it's not 2004 anymore … it's 2007, and I think you have to live in the present." "It doesn't matter what somebody did in an Olympic gold medal game in the Olympics three years ago, now is what matters …," she added.
Ryan wasted little time in kicking Solo off the team. She was barred from sitting on the bench during the team's third-place match, didn't participate in the podium ceremony when the Americans collected their bronze medals, and flew home from China on her own.
Looking back, Solo, now 29, doesn't regret her outspokenness, but maintains the slate has been wiped clean by her teammates and new coach Pia Sundhage, who succeeded Ryan after the World Cup.
"It's been four years now, [and in] four years a lot has happened: a new coach, a new team and a new playing style, new everything. So, of course, I don't look back and have any regrets because I think everything happens for a reason," Solo said in a recent interview with CBC Sports.
2007 was a difficult year for Solo. Not only did she lose her spot on the U.S. national team, but she also lost her father, who passed away shortly before the start of the World Cup.
To her credit, she quickly won back her place on the team under Sundhage and started all six games for the U.S. as it won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Solo was key to the Americans' success, coming up with a brilliant performance in the final against Brazil.
"It's no hidden fact 2007 was one of toughest times of my personal life, off the field and on the field," Solo admitted. "I knew my time would come and fortunately it came less than a year later."
Things appeared to be back to normal for Solo, but her career took another downward turn when she underwent shoulder surgery last September, which ruled her out of the U.S.'s World Cup qualifying campaign. She returned to the national team in March and is expected to start in goal during this summer's FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany.
Part of the fight to reclaim her spot on the team was to regain the fearlessness that comes with being a goalkeeper. Intense training drills where shots were constantly fired at her helped the process along.
"It's strange trying to get that back. [You need] take the ball off your face, off the esophagus, [off] any part of your body and you start to shy away if you don't see it day in day out," said Solo.
"After being out for seven months I had to see shot after shot, I had to get drilled in the face a few times, hit off the nose. You can build that ability to not be afraid of anything on the field."
Even though the road to recovery has been long and arduous, she feels she's a better player because of the experience.
"It's been a struggle to get back [with] emotional ups and downs, and I gained a great deal of respect for any athlete who has been through a major surgery or injury," Solo said. "You learn a lot about your body, your teammates, your coaches … and I have every confidence I will be where I need to be [in Germany]."
As a teenager growing up in Washington, Solo was a star forward with Richland High School, helping the team win a state championship in her senior year — which makes her switch to goalkeeper while attending the University of Washington all the more strange.
So, what happened? Solo explained she came to a realization that she could not progress any further as a forward.
"I never wanted to become a goalkeeper," Solo admitted. "I was just a little kid having all sorts of fun… but as soon as I hit college, I realized I could not go far [as a forward]. My college coaches helped out to teach me the intricacies of goaltending and really made me respect the position."
Solo has come a long way since her college days, and after what happened in China, she's especially looking forward to proving what she can do in Germany this summer.
"I think is it gonna be my time," Solo stated. "I'm gonna do everything I can to help our team win that medal but I think we're gonna need every single player to win that medal. I'm confident, very confident."