Veteran NWSL and United States Women’s National Team defender Ali Krieger was one of the Orlando Pride’s biggest signings in an off-season full of them for Tom Sermanni and company. Krieger came over from the Washington Spirit last November in exchange for the Pride’s Distribution Ranking Order position, which was No. 2 at the time. This seemed to solve the club’s back line issues, as it would add one of the world’s top right backs to a defense that already boasted international players like Monica and Laura Alleway, along with a resurgent Toni Pressley.
After a couple games inside for a Jamia Fields-at-fullback experiment, Krieger began in her familiar right back spot, but when the central defense wasn’t playing up to Sermanni’s standards, he moved her inside to the right center back spot alongside Pressley and, ultimately, to the left center back spot next to Steph Catley in Pressley’s position. This move solidified the Pride’s defense — although right back continued to be a weakness — for the rest of the NWSL season.
Krieger played every minute of every match in 2017, starting all 24 regular-season games and playing 2,160 minutes — quite a feat for the 33-year-old. She also started and played the full 90 in the Pride’s playoff semifinal match at Portland. Krieger played eight regular-season games and the playoff match at right center back, 11 games at left center back, and five games at right back.
She led the entire NWSL in passing attempts (1,300), completing 82.5% of them, behind only Monica (84.4%), Marta (84%), and Maddy Evans (83.2%). She did not score a goal but did assist on two. Owing mainly to spending so much time at center back, Krieger managed only 11 shot attempts for the season but none were on target, although she did hit the crossbar in the waning moments of a 1-0 home loss to Chicago. She also attempted only 21 crosses all year.
On the Pride, only Catley (1,667) had more touches than Krieger’s 1,652 for the season. A clean player, Krieger drew only two cautions all season, committing just 13 fouls in all, while suffering seven.
Krieger was named to the NWSL Team of the Month in both June and August. Only Marta achieved that monthly league honor more often on the Pride (four times).
There are some players who make it difficult to choose a best game of the season and Krieger is one of those. She was certainly a big part of the club’s four shutouts on the season. I’m going to go with a match that should have been the Pride’s third consecutive clean sheet in August.
After blanking consecutive opponents Washington and Sky Blue by a combined 8-0 score line to kick off the month, the Pride headed to Boston to take on the Breakers. The team came within some extra, extra added injury time of making it three in a row without conceding when Fields was whistled for a foul in the box insanely late, giving the Breakers a goal from the spot in what ended up a 2-1 Orlando road win.
The goal spoiled a shutout six minutes into stoppage time (there were due to be at least four) but it couldn’t spoil a standout performance from Krieger, who helped her defense limit Boston to eight total shots (one on frame). She also delivered a set piece beauty of a pass to Alex Morgan, who made the most of the service assist to complete her brace and score what was ultimately the winning goal.
Krieger also completed 88% of her passes that day — her third-highest percentage of the season — and helped the Pride retain 58% of the possession in a complete road victory.
Final 2017 Grade
For her efforts in 2017, The Mane Land staff gave Krieger an excellent composite grade of 8 for the the season. The Alexandria, VA, native and Penn State product showed her versatility in playing multiple positions across the back line and doing well in each. While it would have been preferable to have had her service and passing ability at right back, necessity moved her inside where she couldn’t be as productive in the attack. At 5-foot-6, Krieger can be beaten in the air by taller players and by balls over the top, which she was a few times during the season, but for the most part the USWNT veteran was able to use her talents to offset her weaknesses and help lead the Pride to a productive second season.
There is no reason to think Ali will be going anywhere else to play in 2018. As a player allocated by the U.S. Soccer Federation, she’s still a Pride contract player. While she performed well overall at center back, it would be better if the club could bring in a bigger, more physical player for central defense and move Krieger back to the right fullback spot, where her passing and possession could best be utilized. It would also shore up one of the weaker spots on the team that saw a variety of players used there — including Krieger, Camila, Fields, and Kristen Edmonds. She could also play a holding midfield role if Sermanni is unable to re-sign either Dani Weatherholt or Alanna Kennedy.
Regardless of where she plays, Krieger should return to bring solid play and veteran leadership — she wore the captain’s armband when Ashlyn Harris was out with injury — and experience back to the Pride in 2018.