Ali Krieger just completed an extremely successful Algarve Cup with the U.S. Women’s National Team. In the absence of right back Heather Mitts, who is nursing a strained hamstring, Krieger featured as the starting right back in all four of the United States’ games. She even earned her first-ever international point when she assisted Alex Morgan’s 45th minute goal in a 4-0 win over Finland on Monday.
During the tournament, I had the pleasure of chatting with Krieger about some of her short term goals an plans with the U.S. Below, she jokes about being a U.S. mole in Germany, being an attack-minded outside back and the potential for playing in WPS, which is still a possibility.
Jeff Kassouf: You’ve had a hectic stretch traveling between Germany and Portugal. How has it been?
Ali Krieger: It’s been nice being able to get back with the team and hang out, spend time with the girls and get away from Frankfurt a little bit. So, it’s nice. It’s definitely nice to be back and speaking English. That’s been nice.
J.K.: What kind of an opportunity is this Algarve Cup with Heather Mitts hurt?
A.K.: Obviously you want all of your players to be healthy. It’s definitely unfortunate but I am willing to step up and do the best I can. I think it is a great opportunity and I am ready for it.
J.K.: What have your chats with Pia been like?
A.K.: Great. It’s been good. Whenever you come into camps there is always competition and it depends on how you play. I think the feedback has been really well and I think I have a really great opportunity ahead of me and I am excited to get that chance.
J.K.: What is the team mindset like right now?
A.K.: We kind of want to try to define our style a little bit. We have been trying to work on that – perfecting that and being more precise with how we play. That’s probably the most important right now. And, obviously, winning. When you come out of a tournament and you have a victory, that is the No. 1 thing. Normally it is not how good you look out there or how well you play. Also, it is good to take these tournaments and use these as sort of a practice and apply what we do in training to a game and work on our weaknesses and improve them.
J.K.: What are you guys working on in particular in defense?
A.K.: Changing the point of attack is obviously important for us. Trying to get our outside backs forward. We’ve been working on that a lot and trying to play with the center mids a little bit. Just getting involved as outside backs to just get comfortable with each other in the back – playing balls and skipping certain players in the back. Just moving the ball quickly, sharp and more precise I think as well as taking not only one touch but two touch, prepare and play quicker. In the attack, we really want to get forward and get services in. As outside backs it is tough, so we are working on that, getting forward and getting in.
J.K.: Does getting forward benefit your style of play more?
A.K.: Yeah, I love it. I am attacking minded. Obviously I am a defender first, which is what I have to take care of on the field when attacking isn’t as important. But getting forward, I love to do it and I love to be in the attack and try and combine with any of the other players on the field. But then also, you can’t do it all the time because you will run yourself to death. The chances I do have, I like to take. But then again, we are defenders first, so that is what you really have to focus on. Once your defending is good, then you can go forward. The players around you, we all help each other anyway. Whenever we do get forward, an outside mid or a center back will be able to cover. You always have that extra support going forward.
J.K.: And playing in Frankfurt, you get to play alongside some German and Swedish players. You’ll see some of them at the Women’s World Cup.
A.K.: Yeah, there is Birgit Prinz from Germany and Jessica Landstrom and Sara Thunebro from Sweden. There is also another American here. They are some of my best friends here. It is really nice to have other foreigners with me so I am not the only one playing in Frankfurt. It’s been great. It is so much fun having those different styles on the field and coming together and being really successful in that aspect.
J.K.: Do you get a sense of how they view the U.S. team?
A.K.: Yeah, I do. Sometimes it is hard to take because they think that we always think that we are the best and No. 1 and nobody can beat us. We somewhat do, but everyone I think, thinks that to their own team. They respect us and I respect them as well. It’s good competition. They don’t say anything bad about us.
J.K.: Do you think it will help in the Women’s World Cup having played alongside them?
A.K.: Yeah, definitely. The Germans, I can read them. I know them like the back of my hand. I have played there for four years now. I am more adjusted to them and how they play. It’s kind of cool. It’s going to be interesting to play against my old teammates. I think it is great because I have an understanding of how they play and I am sort of the mole over there so to speak for the U.S. team. I’m kind of the spy taking all of the secrets and bringing them back. No, but it’s been a good experience and I think it is going to be good to at least know a little bit about the team in order to help us be a little bit more successful.
J.K.: And you mentioned another American at Frankfurt – Gina Lewandowski. What is it like having her there?
A.K.: It’s been great. Obviously to be able to speak with her – we’ve come from the same culture, which has been really difficult to deal with when I first went over there. Now I love it. It’s a breeze. It has nothing to do with how I feel anymore because my attachment is really good with Germany. But at the beginning it was really great to have her there. We kind of leaned on each other and helped each other out a little bit and now we are kind of doing our own thing. But we are friends and it is great to have her there just to kind of talk to and hang out. It’s always nice when you have a fellow American to help you out.
J.K.: Obviously the club season is ending for you with Frankfurt. What are your plans for the spring? Is WPS in the picture?
A.K.: I actually am having to make a decision to either stay in Frankfurt or to come home finally. I haven’t talked about it because I have to talk to my club first. Actually our club is finished March 13, so they are letting me on March 13 have no club duties until next August. So, I am going to be home in the states for the whole training camp for the World Cup. So it will be good. That is my plan. March 13 I will be done and I am going to head back home and just relax and not have any jet lag and just be able to go in and out. If I were to come home then WPS would be in my mind when my contract is finished at the end of June, but I haven’t yet decided. So now I am just going to focus on the U.S. team, stay healthy and fit and worry about the other things later.