Penn State Women’s Soccer Alums, USWNT To Kick Off World Cup Against Thailand
Two Penn State women’s soccer alumnae will represent the United States when the women’s national soccer team begins its quest for a fourth World Cup title Tuesday against Thailand.
Ali Krieger and Alyssa Naeher will both assist in this year’s title defense after helping the USWNT to claim its third World Cup in 2015. The duo was named to the national roster in March before a series of pre-tournament exhibition matches.
This summer’s tournament will be Krieger’s third World Cup. She’ll notch her 101st national team appearance if she plays against Thailand Tuesday. Krieger anchored Penn State’s defense for four seasons from 2003 to 2006. She was named the Big Ten freshman of the year, earned back-to-back first team All-American honors in 2005 and 2006, and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the year her senior season. She left Happy Valley to join professional German club FFC Frankfurt in 2007, and currently plays for the Orlando Pride in the NWSL.
Krieger’s inclusion in this year’s World Cup roster was unexpected due to a two-year absence from the national team. Despite her reputation as a solid defender who performs well under pressure — she played all but ten minutes of the 2015 tournament — Krieger isn’t expected to start over head coach Jill Ellis’s first-choice right back Kelly O’Hara.
She may, however, come in off the bench to preserve a lead. She and fiancée Ashlyn Harris, who also plays for the Orlando Pride and was named to the World Cup roster, will be the first engaged teammates to represent the United States at the tournament.
Naeher seems to have locked down the spot between the sticks as the USWNT’s starting goalkeeper. She played for Penn State from 2006 to 2009, earning two first-team All-American selections and a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honor in 2007. She currently plays for the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL.
Naeher was named to the 23-player roster at the 2015 World Cup, but was confined to the bench when Hope Solo, whose national team contract was suspended following the 2016 Olympic Games, remained the team’s starting goalkeeper. Naeher has started each of the team’s pre-World Cup exhibition matches, and should anchor the defense against Thailand and the United States’ other Group F opponents.
Krieger and Naeher are joined by Reign FC midfielder Allie Long, who played at Penn State from 2005 to 2006 before transferring to North Carolina. Long was subbed into a recent exhibition match against New Zealand, but will most likely not start in Ellis’s midfield trio.
Krieger, Naeher, Long, and company kick off against Thailand at 3 p.m. Eastern Tuesday afternoon in Reims. Fans can watch the match, and the rest of the United States’ tournament games, on Fox Sports.
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Is losing three recruits in less than a week weird? Absolutely. Should you be freaking out about the long-term health of Penn State’s ability to recruit?…Probably not.
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