Leader, Advocate, and Legend: Saying Goodbye to Ali Krieger
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
A quote once said by Maya Angelou, this is something that Ali Krieger embodies every day. And, this a shared sentiment, as evidenced by Gotham FC teammate Nealy Martin in a send-off video shared Wednesday.
Throughout her career, Krieger has made one thing clear: her ability to make people feel seen, heard, and validated both on and off the soccer field is unmatched. Often the spark fueling a squad in need of a breakthrough or the last player to leave the field after signing autographs for dozens of eager fans, Krieger's dedication to playing and growing the game secures her status as a legend in women's soccer.
And after 17 years of playing soccer professionally, her career is nearly coming to a close. But, her time sharing this gift with the world is not.
The former U.S. women’s national soccer team player will be honored at Gotham FC's game against the Kansas City Current at 5 p.m. EST, Oct. 15 at Red Bull Arena.
Krieger, 39, broke the news of her retirement in a CBS Mornings segment in March, sharing confidence in the decision’s timing. She plans to retire by the end of the 2023 NWSL season, pending Gotham's potential championship run.
“We’re all taking this on together and keeping focus on the task at hand and wanting to win every game,” Krieger told AllForXI. “We have such a great group of players and we all get along so well that it’s just refreshing to show up to work every day and lead a group of talented, badass women who are also great human beings. I feel so lucky and grateful every day to be in this environment with them.”
The two-time World Cup champion has plenty of accolades to flex from the past 17 years, but an NWSL championship may just be the cherry on top of such a sweet career.
Krieger began playing professional soccer in Germany with FFC Frankfurt as a 23-year-old after graduating from Penn State. In August 2007, she joined FFC Frankfurt in the Frauen-Bundesliga and won a UEFA women’s cup in her first season, eventually staying with the club through 2012.
A regular call-up to the USWNT by 2008, she got her first international cap on Jan. 16, 2008, during the Four Nations Tournament against Canada.
Krieger was part of the 2011 USWNT World Cup roster that made it through to the finals before losing to Japan. Her iconic game-winning penalty kick against Brazil was what pushed the team into the semifinals of the tournament after an epic back-and-forth match that is also remembered for Abby Wambach's last-minute header goal in overtime.
Perhaps one of the toughest moments of her career, Krieger suffered from a torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus tear in her right knee during the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament, ultimately missing out on winning Olympic gold with the national team in 2012.
In 2013, Krieger joined the Washington Spirit in the NWSL after a short spell with Swedish club Tyresö FF. She scored two goals and earned one assist as a defender in her four seasons there, and also served as captain through 2016. She has once come close to an NWSL Championship, as the Spirit reached the NWSL finals in 2016, but lost to the Western New York Flash.
Krieger was the starting left back for the USWNT for a solid cycle. She was part of the backline that carried the team to a World Cup title in 2015 and held opponents scoreless for a record-breaking 540 minutes. Krieger made her Olympic debut in 2016 and finally secured the dream she’d missed out on four years earlier, solidifying the title of an Olympian.
In 2016, Krieger moved to the Orlando Pride. She was named to the 2017 NWSL Best XI and was a consistent starter for the team throughout her six years there.
Not long after achieving her 100th cap while playing for the US Women's National Team in May 2019, Krieger was selected to be part of the 2019 World Cup squad. She secured her second World Cup championship during the competition, as the team triumphed over the Netherlands with a 2-1 victory, earning their fourth star.
In December 2021, Krieger was traded to NJ/NY Gotham FC, where she will finish out her career pending the club's anticipated playoff qualification. She played in 17 matches with the team in her first season there and returned in 2023 as captain.
The growth of the game during Krieger's time playing has become even more apparent in her final NWSL season. In an interview with The Athletic's Meg Linehan, Krieger shared more about the elevated competition she's witnessed in recent matches.
"You show up to a game thinking you’re playing a team at the bottom of the table, but you can’t ever take your foot off the gas," she said. "You always have to show up and be your best because every team is so good, and any team can win on any day. That’s why this league is the best in the world, because it’s so unpredictable. You really have to show up and prove yourself every single day and every single game day, because at any given moment, you could lose."
With Gotham FC currently slated fourth in the NWSL standings, Krieger's NWSL championship dreams are not too far-off. The top six teams will qualify for the quarterfinals, which begin Oct. 22.
Excellence in Advocacy
Krieger's role in the public eye could be described as one that allows for others to feel accepted and seen. She appears well aware of the influence she carries and channels this into action.
As a dedicated supporter and member of the LGBTQ+ community, Krieger serves as an ambassador for Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization committed to promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the realm of sports. Additionally, she has joined forces with Strava in their Strive for More initiative, which seeks to enhance the representation of women in sports.
“I want to be remembered as a good person, first and foremost, a great teammate and somebody who can leave the game better than where I found it, which is creating or helping to create a safe environment for players to live their authentic life and be able to show up to work and feel seen and valued and appreciated,” Krieger said.
Krieger was a part of the USWNT’s equal pay lawsuit against U.S. Soccer Federation that started in 2016. The team sued their employer over the U.S. men’s national soccer team earning almost four times more in compensation than the women. The mission ended last year when two new collective bargaining agreements were signed to allow for equal compensation for both sides in any competition.
Her efforts here have paved the way for future generations of women's soccer players to not only be paid a fair salary, but also feel comfortable speaking against injustice when they see it.
“I want to leave the game better than where I found it,” Krieger said in the CBS interview. “I really believe that I’ve used my voice and my platform to try to impact future generations that are going to follow in our footsteps.”
Looking to the Future
After her retirement, Krieger says she has her sights set on staying involved in with the game. This could potentially mean working in sports broadcasting, a career she's expressed interest in, and also has experience with. During her time in Orlando, she served as an analyst for Orlando City’s broadcast team. She also has a U.S. Soccer C license, which would allow her to coach soccer if she wished.
However, for now, Krieger said she plans to take some well-deserved time to rest. After dealing with the grueling schedule of a professional athlete for almost two decades, she will now have the chance to spend even more time with her two children, Sloane and Ocean.
"I do definitely want to take time, because I think that’s really important," she told The Athletic. "I want to give time to my kids, and just rest, time for my body to heal after all these years. And travel a little bit, see friends and family that I haven’t seen in a long time."
But first up is an NWSL championship. A league trophy is one of the few pieces of hardware Krieger has yet to pick up — something she wants to change before hanging up her boots for good.
"We want to win the championship so bad, and personally, I do as well," she told The Athletic. "I know the team is obviously motivated to do that with me, and they’ve been motivated all year just because it’s my last. I have comfort in that, knowing that everyone’s going to do their best, and that’s the only thing that we can ask for."
Bringing home a championship would certainly be a joy for Gotham FC and Krieger fans everywhere. But it's safe to say Krieger doesn't need trophies or titles to remind the people and lives she's touched of how she made them feel. Those feelings will last forever.