Orlando player Ali Krieger heads the ball during the Seattle Reign at Orlando Pride NWSL game at Orlando City Stadium on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)
SANFORD, Fla — Orlando Pride defender Ali Krieger can look over her lengthy career and pick out her favorite memories.
One of her top moments is her goal in the NWSL semifinals against the Chicago Red Stars in 2016. Krieger, who played with the Washington Spirit at the time, received a ball from then-Spirit teammate Shelina Zadorsky – who plays for the Pride now – and headed home a goal to give the Spirit an early advantage.
That was the Spirit’s first-ever home playoff game.
Of course, right up there with that memory for Krieger is her first time putting on her Orlando Pride uniform and stepping on to the pitch at Orlando City Stadium last season. Her first match in Orlando was played in front of an announced crowd of 14,452.
“That’s got to be up there in the top five or top three, for sure,” she said. “Putting on my purple jersey and stepping out on the field with a new team, new stadium. That’s also a memory I’ll never forget.”
After 100 NWSL appearances, including every minute of last season for the Pride, Krieger still finds joy every time she steps over the white line.
“I really love just playing at the highest level and challenging myself and competing at the highest level and getting better every day,” she said. “I think that as long as my heart’s still in it, I want to play as long as I can.
“That’s something that I just go from day to day. There’s no plan, really. I just wake up and I’m excited to come to work and train and get better. That’s all I’m focused on.”
Before the season started, Krieger, 33, said she’s aging like fine wine. Part of that comes down to the dedication she puts toward her recovery process.
“I do a lot more every day after training,” she said. “I’ll try to get into the pool or the Jacuzzi or roll out or do yoga and do these things are really going to help my body in the next games to be 100 percent. That’s something that I focus on more now, just to give me that extra two percent above the youngins.
“I feel really good. I feel fit, I feel strong. Physically, I’m great and I feel that way. Until that starts to waver, you’ll continue to see me out on the field.”
Versatile Pride veteran Kristen Edmonds said Krieger is a valuable asset to the club.
“Kriegs is my locker-mate,” Edmonds said. “She’s awesome. Just the quality that she brings to this team and the leadership she brings to this team… I’m close in age to her, but I can still learn so much from her every day and I love stepping on the field with her whenever I get the chance.
Coach Tom Sermanni said Krieger has the skills, temperament and background to eventually be a coach, if she wants to be.
“It’s amazing how a bad player can get so many games in the league,” Sermanni sarcastically told reporters while trying to hold back a smile. “It’s unbelievable. I don’t know who keeps picking her.”
Speaking seriously, he said, “Look, she’s just fantastic. On and off the field she’s just the perfect teammate. Perfect professional. Supporter of the team, but demanding. Works harder than anybody else at training. Works harder than anybody else in the game. Is incredibly dedicated to the profession, dedicated to her teammates and dedicated to her club.”
Whether Krieger wants to be a coach is a different question.
“She’s probably smarter than that and will go into something else,” Sermanni said with a laugh.
Krieger has also made of hobby of providing commentary during Orlando City’s pre-game and post-game shows at Orlando City Stadium.
Plus, Krieger isn’t focused too much on her future – though the thought of coaching new outside backs or being a defensive coach is appealing to her. For now, she’s enjoying being an extension of the club’s coaches as a leader on the pitch.
“I obviously love doing the broadcasting and analyzing, as well,” she said. “We’re going to keep my options open. That’s down the road. Right now, I’m just enjoying playing.”