When the United States kicks off its title defense at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France on Tuesday against Thailand, U.S. reserves Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris will become the first engaged teammates to represent the country at soccer’s biggest event.
The couple announced their plans to marry in People Magazine earlier this year. At the time, Krieger — who started each of the Americans’ seven games four years ago in Canada, helping the country win its third World Cup — hadn’t played for the national team in almost two years. Her picture wasn’t in the team’s media guide. In other words, accompanying Harris to France as anything other than a supporter seemed like a long shot.
But the veteran defender who, like Harris, plays professionally for the NWSL’s Orlando Pride, was surprisingly called back into the team in April. Head coach Jill Ellis, citing her vast tournament experience (Krieger also played every minute for the U.S. at the 2011 World Cup), named her to the the final 23-player roster last month. Now, Krieger and goalkeeper Harris are together on the biggest stage in their sport.
“It’s really tough, our job — we don’t get a lot of time just to rest and relax or to even see our partners and spouses, so I know that I’ll take full advantage of that because we’re here and we’re sharing every day together,” Krieger told Yahoo Sports. “Obviously there’s moments where it gets tough and you might need some time away, but it’s really enjoyable to share this incredible experience with your partner.
“We’re obviously here to do our job and do it well, so I think we keep it very professional,” she added, noting later on that she and Harris room with different players during USWNT road trips. “On the other hand, it’s really nice to kind of share these moments and talk about everything that happens day to day with this team.”
Krieger and Harris were dating at Canada 2015, so their relationship is old news to the rest of the squad. However, the pair had not gone out of their way to reveal their union publicly until the People story dropped in March.
“For so long I felt like this burden, and it was so heavy because we couldn’t tell people,” Harris said. “Now that it’s out there that’s open, I think we can just generally be ourselves and be the best version of ourselves for our teammates and our families and for each other. This is such a cool journey, and we’re really taking it in, to be able to say that we’re doing this together.”
It’s even more special given Krieger’s long road back to the team. Even after Ellis stopped inviting her to training camps in 2017, Krieger continued to train as if she was part of the coach’s plans. “I didn’t really have a reason why,” she said. Harris worked out with her whenever she wasn’t traveling the world with the champs.
“She really pushed me to get back,”Krieger said of her fiancée. “I’m really grateful, and always will be, for her support. Sometimes I feel bad because I’d be so emotional, and maybe tough at times to be around, because I was so angry, really going through it and struggling. With her support, she really helped me get out of that hole.”
Krieger played just one game, a 6-0 win over Belgium on April 7, before getting the World Cup call. Days later, she earned her 100th career cap in another pre-tourney tuneup against South Africa.
“She came in and kicked ass like we all knew she would, and she absolutely deserves to be here,” Harris said. “This isn’t a gift for her. This isn’t because she’s a veteran player. She deserves to be here. She’s an unbelievable teammate and person and fiancée and all those great things, and that’s just a testament to the person she is and the strength that she carries. She’s going to be huge for this team.”
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