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 is used to just getting back up, no matter how hard she hits the pitch.
The durable and versatile veteran was seemingly indestructible with the Pride. She was on the pitch for every minute of every match after she joined the club prior to the 2017 season and looked solid to start the 2018 campaign.
In the 66th minute of the Pride’s 5-2 win over the Chicago Red Stars, Krieger was slow to get up after a challenge on the Red Stars’ Arin Gilliland. Four minutes later, for the first time in her Pride career, she was subbed off.
“I’m never injured, knock on wood,” she said. “Rarely, unless it’s like a big-time injury. I always just pop up and play through it.
“I was thinking in my mind, ‘OK. That was weird.’ It felt like a little knock. When I stood up, I had pain right in my MCL and I knew because I had done it before. I thought, ‘Eh, I don’t know if I should play through this.’ But with adrenaline, it feels like everything’s fine, it’s just a bruise.”
Krieger came off and tried to test her knee to see if she could still play, but ultimately decided continuing would be a bad idea.
She was devasted.
“At that point, we were playing such a good game,” she said. “I thought that would be a turning point for us in the league. It actually was. At the moment, we played really well together. I felt really good.
“That’s always tough when you’re doing well and then all of the sudden you get injured and you have to kind of go back to zero. I was pretty bummed. As a professional, I made it my new job to just focus on my injury, take time to rest.”
On May 30, the Pride announced Krieger would miss four to six weeks with an MCL injury. Four weeks and three days later, on Saturday against the North Carolina Courage, Krieger was back in the Pride’s starting XI.
Krieger said the timing of her injury was about as convenient as it could be. Obviously, she wanted to play, but if she had to be sidelined, it least it was during a time where the Pride had only a few games. She only missed four matches from the time the club first announced she was injured.
Plus Krieger, 33, has her own training schedule she sticks to. The injury and the rehab involved interrupted that.
“You turn from leading physically and on the field and then just vocally you’re leading,” Krieger said. “That’s really difficult to kind of adjust that.”
Krieger logged 75 minutes in the Pride’s 3-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage.
“It wasn’t my best game,” Krieger said, but added it was amazing just to be playing again. “You’ve just got to get back out there and play games and get touches on the ball. It’s always hard coming back from injury because you’re not going to have your best game. Just to get out there with the team and get focused again on the task at hand and be back with the squad, that was just great.
“Now, it’s just kind of getting back to that level I was at when we played Chicago.”
The Pride as a club are looking for the same level of cohesion that was on display when they throttled the Red Stars.
“I think we all just need to take a look in the mirror,” Krieger said. “What we spoke about [Tuesday] in a meeting was just the accountability and taking care of what you need to take care of. What are you adding to the team in a positive way that’s going to help this team be successful?
“I think, everyone, if we did that individually and really focused on that instead of putting blame on other things and really focused on the task at hand and what you need to do, to bring to the team, in order for it to be positive, I think that’s something we really have to focus on now.”