NJ/NY Gotham FC player Ali Krieger played in her final professional match last Saturday, closing the books on her 17-year-long career. She ended her last match in the best way possible: winning her first NWSL title.
Not only was Krieger part of the golden era of the USWNT, but she has been an icon and a role model for several female players. Undoubtedly, she will go down as one of the greatest defenders to ever wear the Stars and Stripes and play in the NWSL.
Before the NWSL even existed, Krieger played for the WPS, the former top tier of women’s soccer. She did win a title while with the Washington Freedom in 2007. She also spent some of her professional career in Europe, having played five seasons in Germany with FFC Frankfurt.
In her short time in Germany, she picked up some hardware, winning the Frauen-Bundesliga and the UEFA Women's Champions League. Krieger later returned in time to play for the NWSL in its inaugural season with the Washington Spirit.
Ali Krieger will leave a legacy on the pitch
This is where Krieger was at the peak of her career, having been the best defender since 2013 while earning four NWSL Best XI titles. Team-wise, she lacked success with the Washington and the Orlando Pride. Her best finish was a second-place finish during the 2016 NWSL playoffs.
This all changed when she joined Gotham FC, winning her first club trophy in the NWSL. Overall, Krieger has made over 190 appearances in the NWSL since 2013, starting the majority of the matches.
Additionally, the defender’s journey to the USWNT started in 2008 after she started against Canada during the Four Nations tournament. Her high talent level led her to be the starting center-back alongside Becky Sauerbrunn for about the next 10 years.
The only major title that Krieger could not win with the USWNT was an Olympic Gold, as she missed the entire 2012 season with an ACL injury. Outside of that, she was a vital part of the run to the 2015 World Cup finals, helping to keep five clean sheets, including three in a row during the knockout round.
The US only allowed three goals in the entire tournament, including two against Japan in the finals. Following her success at the World Cup, she later went on to be in FIFPro World XI in 2016, while also being named CONCACAF Women's Team of the Decade in 2020.
With the young Abby Dahlkemper emerging as one of the best defenders in the NWSL, it won her more playing time over Krieger during the 2019 World Cup. She received fewer and fewer call-ups, ultimately ending her USWNT career in 2021.
Krieger's end with Gotham FC and her influence
Krieger joined Gotham in 2022, with the team finishing dead last in the standings. Following the season, she said it was a tough year.
"I think it’s been one of the toughest years of our career. Coming in last place is definitely new to us, and foreign to us and how we expected the season to go. We obviously hold a high standard and are addicted to winning, that's what we are used to. But it was definitely humbling."- Ali Krieger
Before the start of the season, Krieger announced that she would be playing in her last year and would retire following the conclusion of the campaign. This made her year special, as she wanted to make this season better than before. With Gotham FC completely revamping their team, adding Lynn Williams, Esther González, Yazmeen Ryan, and drafting Jenna Nighswonger, the team went on to make the playoffs with a sixth-place finish in the table.
Unfortunately, Krieger had to face some off-the-field issues after finding out that her partner since 2010 and former USWNT goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris had ended their relationship after immediately going out with actress Sophia Bush. The couple had played with each other as teammates while with Gotham, Washington, Orlando, and the national team. They filed for divorce in September. They also share two adopted children.
This did not get in Krieger’s way as she finished the season strong, landing in the NWSL Best XI for the first time since 2019. Winning the NWSL Championship with Gotham was the perfect way to end her career, as Krieger is humbled by the opportunity to end at the top of the game. “An incredible game, an incredible year that we had and I think I wanna end up on top,” she said.
Krieger told CBS Sports on “We Need to Talk” that though she thinks she can keep playing, she would rather start to focus on being with her two little kids, while also feeling the pain in her back from all the years playing.
Outside of that, she has contributed to different charities during her playing career, including teaming up with MiracleFeet, an organization that helps children who are born with club feet. Krieger has also expressed her interest in someday becoming a coach after taking classes for her “B” license back in 2021.
She also said she is open to coaching following retirement but has not fully committed to it yet. Overall, it looks like the legend will take the time to be with her family and children but could soon return to the professional soccer world as a coach in the future.
Regardless of Krieger's future, there is no question she has left a legacy on and off the pitch. The NJ/NY Gotham FC defender will be missed.