Nearly 3 months after her World Cup fell apart, Hope Solo still is pained by the experience.

In her first public comments since a brutally frank TV interview in which she criticized her benching, Solo told the Associated Press she never saw it coming and wasn't prepared for it.

"I had felt as though my childhood dream basically had been ripped away from me," she said.

The starting goalkeeper for the U.S. soccer team in China, Solo played well in the opening round and quarterfinals. But then coach Greg Ryan benched her for veteran Briana Scurry against Brazil, and the Americans were routed.

After the loss, Solo said: "It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves . . . You have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past."

Ryan dismissed Solo from the team. She wasn't allowed on the bench for the third-place game, did not participate in the medal ceremony and flew home.

Until yesterday, Solo had only spoken with close friends and family about her ordeal. As she prepares for a training camp in Carson, Calif., where she will mingle with many of the World Cup players, Solo spoke to the AP by phone.

"It is a little difficult to relive that," she said. "Mentally, I was full of all sorts of emotions. The World Cup was the only thing that kept me together after the death of my father [in June], kept me fighting and together and dedicated to the game.

"Of course I know I have some friendships to rebuild and teammates to rebuild relationships with," she said. "But there is nothing I can go back and do.'' *