Editor’s note: This interview was conducted on 8/31.
When living in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area – the DMV as we call it – it’s hard to talk about soccer without mentioning one particular name, Ali Krieger. It’s also hard to mention her name and not have whoever you are talking to smile, because that’s the kind of effect she has.
As hard-nosed and brash as she can be on the field, she is as kind and soft spoken off of it. She cares about her fans, her teammates and her sport. When you see pictures of her being the last player on the field signing autographs, that’s not for show, that’s just Ali being Ali.
For as popular and talented as she is, you could forgive her if she was cocky and a bit egotistical, but anyone who has had the pleasure of spending five minutes with her would tell you, that is the last thing that she is. I happen to be one of those people who have been lucky enough, on a few occasions, to speak with Ali.
Backline Soccer (BS): With the Spirit in 1st going into the playoffs this year, a little different than the last couple of seasons, how is that mindset and what do you think have been the changes that have put you in this position?
Ali Krieger (AK): I think we have a team this year that is all on the same page, we all respect each other and we really, really care about each other and get along so well. I think there’s constant support and everyone knows their role and gives it 100% everyday, not that there wasn’t in previous years. I think that there’s a certain communication and understanding that everyone is just here to work hard, to play well and be a good teammate and to want to win, most importantly. That’s the way that we’ve become so successful, I think that each game that we’re winning with that mindset, we’ve built confidence off of that. I think that that is the few keys and mainly the reason why we’ve been having success.
BS: As Captain and knowing how well the team was playing going into the break, did it make it easier to concentrate and be away, knowing the national team players didn’t have to be there, whereas other teams really needed their national team players?
AK: Absolutely, we have such depth within in this team and you couldn’t even tell we were away, at times I was thinking to myself, “do I even need to go back, I could just chill on the bench the whole time and cheer them on.” Not that I wanted to continue to do that.
In all seriousness, I love this team so much, we have such depth and great players with great attitudes who just want to work hard and get better and the willingness to learn and get better every single day has improved since day one. I think that just goes to show you that everybody who gets the opportunity to play and fill in those holes, we had 5 starters unavailable for the break, I think that players have been doing so well with just filling in and playing their role and possibly even doing it better than we were before. It makes it more difficult for us to join the team and come back in now, but that’s the way it should be, players should want to take that opportunity and run with it. I think that a lot of our teammates have done that and have done a great job. It’s a battle every single day and everyone has a fire underneath them and that’s the type of atmosphere you want at the professional level.
BS: With the growth of the NWSL into a 4th season, what changes have you seen making it possible for the 4th season and what could keep moving it forward?
AK: Obviously the addition of more teams has helped. The team in Orlando, which has been a tremendous addition because it’s so professional there, right from the start. Having the connection with the men’s team has helped them and they’ve only been in the league for 2 seasons. I think it was such a great addition and very professional and I think that that’s the way it’s going to be from now on. I think that is the key to automatically have a team that has a set up in some way.
Also, just really good support, having a great manager and a great owner who really loves women’s football, who really wants to see the game grow and the players happy. We have Bill Lynch and the Washington Spirit organization that has cared for women’s football for over 25 years. I remember, Bill, he always tells me that he used to watch me when I was so young, growing up and now I’m here playing for his club. That’s the way it should be, giving back to the women’s game. I think, in order for the NWSL to grow, we need owners like Bill and more support for the women’s game. But obviously, to have that professionalism that we have and some of the other teams that are connected with a men’s team. Obviously every team and owner that you see, in the NWSL now after 4 years, is all in and full go. I think that’s something that will help the NWSL to continue to grow as long as you have that support, I think it will continue to be successful like it has been.
I also think the more money we get into the league and the support from US Soccer, that needs to continue for it to be stabilized. It’s having great owners, good managers and staff that want to be here and want to see the women’s game grow and not because of the money, that’s just the idea you have to have coming into this.
BS: IF there was a NWSL All-Star game and you were the starting right back…
AK: Yes, I wish that was coming back, one of these days.
BS: Who would your other 4 of the back 5 be?
AK: Oh gosh, that’s a tough question. I would want all of MY teammates to be the back five, for sure, hands down. I love my teammates so much and I think that they’re some of the best players in the country. I think that I would love to just continue to crush with them, we’re so comfortable with each other, we’re doing really well. I don’t know how many goals against we have, not too many, it’s fewer than some other teams. I would love to just continue to play with my teammates. In all seriousness, to have an All-Star backline, I would have to sit and think about that and look at the other rosters. I’m just so focused on paying attention to what we have in our little bubble.
BS: In keeping with the Olympic Spirit, if you could take one athlete from any other sport and convert them from another sport and bring them to the Spirit, who would it be and what position?
AK: I think it would be either Allyson Felix or Simone Biles. That girl is so good she could probably do anything. If you put the pace of Allyson Felix with Simone Biles, if you mix the two I think you’d have an even more incredible athlete. I’d throw a jersey on her and put her up front with Crystal. I think her and Crystal could do the damn thing, wheeling and dealing.