The Thorns' Olympians Talk About Losing in Rio and Feeling Sympathy for Hope Solo

"I just wanted immediately to get out of there and go into hiding."

Rio is still haunting the Portland Thorns.

On Aug. 25, four of the five Thorns who competed on the U.S. women's Olympic soccer team caught up with press outlets after practice. Just two weeks earlier, their dreams of medaling in Rio had been crushed by an unexpected loss to Sweden in the quarterfinals. After the game, hotheaded goalie Hope Solo (who formerly played for the Seattle Reign) called the Swedish squad "a bunch of cowards"—and was suspended from U.S. Soccer.

The four players who spoke to WW—Allie Long, Lindsey Horan, Meghan Klingenberg and Tobin Heath—all played significant minutes for the team in Rio. They discussed the hurt of not medaling, their goals for hometown redemption, and whether they stand with Solo.

WW: What will you take away from the game with Sweden?

Allie Long: I don't think I'll ever forget about that game, ever. Everyone's taking that loss tough.

Lindsey Horan: A shootout is always a terrible way to go out. But anything can happen. Obviously, Sweden had great tactics, and it worked for them. It shows that any tactical game can be played, [that] even if you're on your game and doing your best and everything's going right for you, things can happen in the end.

What's your take on Hope Solo's comments and her suspension from U.S. Soccer?

Meghan Klingenberg: U.S. Soccer is going to do what they think is correct. Obviously, I don't feel like that the way that Sweden played was anything less than their best. What they were doing was trying to win a game. They were being tactically smart and technically smart, and credit to them for winning.

Long: Everyone was disappointed. I can't speak on Hope's behalf. Losing in that way hurt, and people are emotional after games. I could be just as emotional. Just not everyone has a camera in their face or a reporter they're talking to.

How have you been handling the loss?

Tobin Heath: It was difficult to swallow. I just wanted immediately to get out of there and go into hiding and punish myself for a little while. I guess anytime you end a tournament like that it takes a little while to get back on your feet and stop beating yourself up over everything. It took a few days. It's kind of just part of being an athlete, being able to move on and kind of having that short-term memory to start again.

Long: The next day was my birthday, so that wasn't the best birthday. It wasn't easy seeing other people fight for a gold medal when I felt like that's what we came there for. Just sitting there and knowing we could have been there was really tough.

Horan: It still hurts now. I think it's going to continue to hurt. But I think the main thing for me was thinking of what's coming with Portland, that we still have a trophy we can win this year.

Related: How Portland fell in love with the Thorns, and embraced women's soccer like no other city in America.

After the World Cup, attendance went up around the National Women's Soccer League. Are you worried about the league losing momentum after the recent loss in Rio?

Klingenberg: There were 19,000 people here [in July], and we didn't even have national team players on the field. That's a credit to the organization, that's a credit to the fans for showing up. I mean, they can tell we play good quality soccer with a good bunch. I want that to spread throughout the rest of the league.

Heath: We're kind of that benchmark of where the league's going and where we want the league to go. It's great that it's continuing to grow here in Portland.

Related: Meet Nadia Nadim, the Afghan refugee who escaped the Taliban and became the Thorns' newest star.

As the national league grows, women soccer players are becoming more outspoken about wage equity. Do you think that will continue?

Klingenberg: I sure hope so. We're the players living it. It's only good for the NWSL. Having players like Alex [Morgan] and [Megan] Rapinoe and even players that aren't on the national team be able to speak up about their situations is incredibly important for the league to be able to grow.

How are you transitioning from the Olympics to focusing on the NWSL championship?

Heath: I was incredibly proud of the team that was here [in Portland, during the Olympics]. It made us all inspired. Together now, I think we're going to make that final push to do something big.

Long: I think we're all excited to get another game under our belts. Now the championship is the thing that's on our minds. We want to win the league.

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