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Celebrating Women & Girls In Sports

Celebrating Women & Girls In Sports

Ali Krieger’s Arduous Journey To The Ultimate Outcome

Penn State Women’s Soccer was two days out from their 2005 drive for an NCAA title. The excitement over their Big Ten Championship victory had settled, and the team was set to scrimmage the men’s club soccer team. With one swift move, midfielder Ali Krieger danced around one of the men’s players, before a poor tackle brought the two of them to the ground. 

Penn State Women’s Soccer was two days out from their 2005 drive for an NCAA title. The excitement over their Big Ten Championship victory had settled, and the team was set to scrimmage the men’s club soccer team. With one swift move, midfielder Ali Krieger danced around one of the men’s players, before a poor tackle brought the two of them to the ground. 

 “I heard a pop. I knew it was bad,” Krieger told The Players’ Tribune in July 2019. The All-American defender had suffered a spiral fracture in her fibula and would miss the NCAA tournament of her junior season. In the coming weeks, however, this would turn out to be the least of her worries. 

Upon returning to school after winter break, Krieger began feeling lightheaded and had difficulty breathing. A cautionary visit to the emergency room escalated very quickly–doctors rushing around her, nurses admitting things were serious. She later found out that as a result of her routine fibula surgery, in combination with medication and air-travel over the past weeks, she had developed a pulmonary embolism from blood clots that had traveled from her leg into her lungs and eventually into her heart. 

 “I’ll never forget the doctors telling me that if I hadn’t come in, and instead had gone to bed and slept through the night, I probably wouldn’t have woken up” she told The Players Tribune. “After I left the hospital, I promised myself that I was going to cherish every single moment on the field — every game, every training session, every gym session. And I’ve worked hard to keep that promise ever since.”

In her senior year, Krieger, stud midfielder, would become a defender–eventually one of the greatest to ever play the position. Although she earned All-American status yet again, the captain would refuse to put away her cleats after another unsuccessful NCAA tournament. 

After graduating from Penn State, Krieger signed with FFC Frankfurt, one of the top club teams in the world. Her success in Germany grabbed the attention of the U.S. Women’s National Team, and by 2008, she was wearing red, white, and blue. 

In 2012, the Olympics were within reach for Krieger before she suffered yet another major injury in the qualifying match–this time, a torn ACL and MCL with a meniscus tear in her right knee. While she watched the U.S. take home gold in the London Summer Games from home, she was back in full force for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where for 539 minutes, Krieger and her fellow defenders held their opponents scoreless to take home the title.

The pomp and circumstance of 2015 put the U.S. Women’s National Team on the map, making them one of the most beloved teams in the country. A few years later, in March of 2017, however, Krieger received a call from the U.S. staff informing her that she had been taken off the roster. 

While she used this as an opportunity to see family and friends she had missed over the years, her desire to play for the U.S. never waivered. “I worked to be the best leader and teammate I could be for the Orlando Pride,” she said via The Players’ Tribune. “Just months after learning I was no longer on the USWNT, I went out and had the best year of my NWSL career in 2017. The Pride made it to the semifinals that season, and I got first-team NWSL and first-team CONCACAF.” 

With the support of her family and fiance Ashlyn Harris, a goalkeeper for the team, Krieger kept up with workouts and continued to study the game–she was ready to go whenever they needed her. Swirling in the back of her mind were images of her lying in the hospital bed, where she had nearly died 12 years before–she would cherish every moment in front of her no matter how difficult.    

In March of 2019, Krieger received a text from U.S. head coach Jill Ellis. Later that day, she was invited to rejoin the squad–and not simply as a practice player. Just six months later, Krieger and the U.S. Women’s National Team would win the FIFA Women’s World Cup yet again.

“I love this sport so much,” she said to The Players’ Tribune. “I love this team so much. I’d do anything for these women. I’d run through a brick wall if I needed to. And celebrating with this team — this family! — after we secured that World Cup trophy is something I’ll remember for as long as I live.”

Krieger has since hung up her cleats, but has joined the Orlando Pride Broadcast team. “A two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion (2015, 2019), Krieger is arguably one of the greatest right backs to play the game, earning over 100 caps with the U.S. Women’s National Team while accumulating global accolades such as 2017 CONCACAF Best XI, 2016 FIFPro Best XI and 2011 Women’s World Cup Best XI,” wrote Orlando City in a press release in August 2020. 

All we see is incredibly talented women hoisting a trophy above their heads every few years. We never witness the journey, the heartbreak, the grueling workouts–the adversity that each player faces day in and day out. Ali Krieger’s quest through the soccer world evidently came with its hardships, but her unwavering dedication to the sport and to her teammates make it easy to see how she found such success.

Photo Credit: Wiki, Instagram

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