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Global Dec 24, 2012

Ali Krieger returns home from Germany to play in NWSL, regain spot on U.S. Women’s National Team

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Ali Krieger is back: one adventure completed and ready to start a new one.

Krieger spent five and a half years in Germany playing for FFC Frankfurt, one of the top teams in the Frauen Bundesliga and in the world.

The defender was one of the USA’s stars of the Women’s World Cup two summers ago, but she saw her year and Olympic dreams cut short in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament due to a reckless tackle by a Dominican Republic player that tore her ACL. She hasn’t played for the USA since the injury on Jan. 20, 2012.

“This is actually perfect timing for me to come home,” said Krieger, who parted ways with Frankfurt a few weeks ago during the German winter break. “These next three years are very important. It’s been a year since the injury and I’m one hundred percent now. We have a new coach and my chances to play for the national team are a lot better if I’m there from day one.”

She left Frankfurt once before, at the end of the season in the lead up to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. She returned to her adopted city for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final only to fall just a tiny bit short of completing that fairytale. But back then, she departed Germany with mixed feelings. Something in her gut said she wasn’t done, and she returned to Frankfurt at the end of that summer. She just wasn’t quite ready to leave a place that had become her home.

Now, she is sure. This time her heart has brought her back to the USA.

“Playing at Frankfurt was an amazing experience,” said the 28-year-old Krieger. “It was a very high level, it kept me fit and made me tougher mentally and physically, but my goals have changed. At my age, I have to embrace any opportunity I may be given to play for the national team and I don’t want to take any chances, like just coming in on FIFA dates. If I’m not in camp, someone else comes in and will be competing for a spot. It’s time to take another step and really prove myself. I felt that this was the right time to do that — I’m following my heart.”

Krieger was on the fringes of the USA’s radar when she left for Germany after an excellent college career at Penn State but took tremendous strides in Frankfurt while competing with and against some of the world’s best players. Her first game for the USA was Pia Sundhage’s first game in 2008, but injuries and unavailability due to club commitments precluded her from working her way into the U.S. team until middle of 2010. She earned the starting spot at right back for the Women’s World Cup, played every minute of the tournament and famously nailed the fifth and decisive penalty kick in the dramatic quarterfinal victory against Brazil.

She was injured in the first match of Olympic qualifying in January, had surgery and returned to Germany to undergo her rehabilitation. It was an arduous process, but she was fit and healthy for the start of the Bundesliga season in early September.

“Every single day I’ve thought about (getting back with the national team),” said Krieger. “The team had a tremendous year, I’m so proud of them and I want to be a part of that group again. It’s what kept me motivated and wanting to go to rehab every day. My goal is to put that U.S. jersey on again and I won’t stop until that day comes.”

The USA won’t come together again until early February, but a U.S.-based and fully fit Krieger will likely be a part of that training camp roster, the first for new head coach Tom Sermanni. Like a kid counting down the days until Christmas morning, she can’t wait until February.

“I’m so excited to see my teammates,” said Krieger, who also said her return home was partially inspired by the U.S. fans who were so supportive during her recovery from her injury. “I’ve missed them so much. I’ve been keeping in touch with email, texts and Twitter, and we’ve been supporting each other the entire year. They’ve all encouraged me to get back and be a part of that group again.”

Due to her departure for Germany right after college, and the length of the German season, Krieger has more professional club experience than any U.S. player. With that on her soccer resume, she’s excited to continue her career back in the USA.

“I’m so pumped and excited for the new league,” said Krieger. “I feel like the third time is a charm. It’s a bit of a cliché, but I feel like this one will last, and I want to be here to support it. Growing up in Northern Virginia, going to the Freedom games as a young girl and watching Mia and Steffi Jones, I was sitting and wishing I could play for a professional team one day in the USA. We have a certain responsibility to be role models as national team players. It’s all about inspiring these young kids, giving back to our amazing fans and now we can start something really powerful and something way bigger than ourselves. That’s a great feeling, and I want to be a part of it. I think the league will grow and be positive for our country, our players and for our youth. Helping this league prosper in any way we can will give inspiration to all the young players who want to play professionally.”

Welcome back, Ali.

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