Hope Solo is undisputedly the best goalie in women’s soccer history. In 15 years she won 153 games and posted 102 shutouts in 195 starts. No other keeper — male or female — has come close to matching any of those numbers.
So for eight years Naeher mainly sat and watched and waited her turn. This year, with Solo out of the picture, she’s finally getting that chance.
“I’m just happy to have the opportunity now,” she said. “Any time you get to step on the field, wear the crest, it’s a privilege and it’s an honor.”
“Obviously Alyssa’s our No. 1 goalkeeper,” said U.S. coach Jill Ellis, who has started Naeher in five straight national team games, making her the first U.S. keeper other than Solo to do that since 2011.
“The way players get in form is many minutes, many games, and hard games as well. That’s what I think the winning combination is: minutes, challenging games and being able to go through that cycle without interruption.”
“She’s really stepped into that role,” said defender Casey Short, a teammate with both the Red Stars and the national team. “She’s worked her butt off for this moment. I don’t think she’s timid at all.
“She’s very passionate and our leader.”
And at 29, she’s arguably just entering the prime of her career — which is why Naeher won’t allow herself to look back at the time she’s missed for fear of missing what’s to come.
“It’s important to stay present in the moment,” Naeher said. “This is what’s in front of me right now. I have the opportunity to play — and play a few games back to back. It’s all forward thinking.
“It’s ‘what can I do to be better tomorrow. What can I do to keep improving my game?’ ”