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Ali Krieger Opens Up About Near-Death Experience, Being Dropped From USWNT In Players’ Tribune Piece

Penn State women’s soccer legend and two-time World Cup champion Ali Krieger wrote a piece titled “I’m Good Right Now” for The Players’ Tribune that was published Wednesday. She discussed her near-death experience during college and feelings about being taken off-contract for the United States Women’s National Team in depth.

Krieger suffered a spiral fracture in her fibula during a scrimmage against Penn State’s men’s club soccer team prior to the start of the 2005 NCAA tournament. She underwent surgery for the injury and missed the team’s run to the national semifinals before nearly dying after returning to school from winter break.

The major surgery Krieger underwent to repair her fibula fracture, the medication she was taking, and traveling to different places over break caused blood clots to develop in her legs, heart, and lungs. Doctors told Krieger she would’ve lost her life if she didn’t take a trip to the emergency room because of how she was feeling.

The defender recovered from the near-death experience, and it instilled her with a newfound appreciation for being able to play soccer at a high level and her life as a whole.

“The experience really instilled within me a new level of focus,” she wrote. “And after I left the hospital, I promised myself that I was going to cherish every single moment on the field — every game, every training session, every gym session. And I’ve worked hard to keep that promise ever since.

“It wasn’t my last major injury. There’s been a torn ACL and MCL in my knee, some extremely serious concussions, a second MCL injury, and a bunch of other physical issues that I’ve had to battle through. But I always come back.”

Krieger began her piece by sharing the phone call she received from the USWNT in 2017 notifying her she’d be taken off-contract. Despite having one of the best club seasons of her life and being named to the 2016 FIFA Team of the Year, the veteran defender was taken off contract so younger players could get an opportunity to play for the USWNT.

She said there was “no real explanation” as to why the USWNT took her off-contract, which wasn’t as easy to deal with. Instead of dwelling on why the national team might’ve made this decision, Krieger took on the challenge with a positive mindset.

“You can decide if you are going to let someone’s decision define you or if you are going to take control of your life and make the most of the situation,” she said. “I decided to make the most of it. Adversity is nothing new to me. I’d been there before. I knew what to do.”

Krieger detailed her experience at the 2017 Tournament of Nations with the USWNT in the piece. She didn’t make an appearance in-game action for the national side despite being called up, and the USWNT didn’t contact her once the tournament wrapped up.

With the support of Ashlyn Harris, her girlfriend at the time, their new puppy Logan, and her family, Krieger took some time to herself and aimed to “do what would make me a better, stronger person.”

Krieger shared a couple of pictures of Logan, her and Ashlyn Harris’ Very Good Boy, with The Players Tribune. (Photos courtesy of Ali Krieger via The Players Tribune)

After learning the news about her contract with the USWNT, Krieger started focusing on AKFC — her company that runs soccer camps and clinics for younger kids. She even got her coaching license, began coaching a local boys’ team, and held training sessions for adult soccer players.

“It’s been a little humbling at times, but it is so rewarding to take on a completely new challenge, have a vision, and see it grow,” Krieger wrote. “It has also helped remind me how much I love this sport and that it will always be my future, no matter what.”

Through it all, Krieger and the Orlando Pride had an excellent 2017 season. Her team qualified for the league semifinals and she earned first-team NWSL honors thanks to her performances. In the offseason, Krieger trained vigorously with the full support of Harris, who’s also her teammate with the Pride.

Although many thought Krieger’s international career with the USWNT was over, she never stopped watching and supporting the team. The defender even kept stats and analyzed every single one of the national team’s games.

All of Krieger’s hard work eventually paid off in March 2019, which is when she heard from USWNT head coach Jill Ellis for the first time in nearly two calendar years. Ellis reached out and asked Krieger to attend the national team’s next camp as a full-time player, which eventually led to a call-up for the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

“It was such a wonderful moment, such a special thing to hear. And it just felt like validation for all the work I’d put in,” Krieger said. “On the field for sure, but also, even more so, for all the work I did to become more grounded, and to fight through one of the toughest periods of my life.”

Once Krieger arrived at camp, Ellis offered to talk about what had happened with her contract in 2017. She thought about it for a moment, but chose to pass up on that conversation and instead get to work.

“I’m in a really good place at this point,” she said. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been. All I want to do is continue moving forward and thriving. I’m good right now.”

As the saying goes, the rest is history. Krieger wasn’t a first-team regular during the 2019 Women’s World Cup, but she made three appearances — including two as a substitute in the semifinal and final — as the Americans successfully defended their crown as World Champions.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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