Ali Riley Captains Ferns in Tokyo Olympics
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
She has had to wait a whole extra year for another opportunity at a gold medal and Ali Riley hopes it will be worth it. The veteran defender who grew up on Kagawa in the Alphabet Streets is once again captain for the New Zealand women’s national soccer team, which opened the Tokyo Summer Games yesterday against Australia.
The Football Ferns are in Group G and will play reigning Olympic champion USA on Saturday morning before finishing the group stage July 27 against Sweden. Knockout rounds start July 30 and the gold medal match is August 5 in Tokyo.
New Zealand enters this year’s tournament ranked No. 22 in the world and is eager to show it has learned since failing to advance out of the group phase five years ago in Rio de Janeiro.
Riley also plays for the Orlando Pride in the National Women’s Soccer League and has spent the past year, despite the coronavirus pandemic, preparing for Tokyo.
The 33-year-old has played 135 games for New Zealand since her debut, also versus Australia, back in February 2007. Her father John is from New Zealand and along with him and her mom Bev Lowe she has run the Palisades Will Rogers race numerous times. This is her fourth Olympics for the Ferns.
Riley played every minute in the Ferns’ previous three Olympic apperances: 2008 in Beijing, where they tied Japan 2–2, lost to Norway 1-0 and lost to the USA 4-0; 2012 in London, where they lost 1-0 to Great Britain and Brazil and beat Cameroon 3–1—their first win in Olympic competition—to advance to the knockout stage, losing to the USA 2-0 in the quarterfinals; and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, where they
lost 2-0 to the United States, lost 3-0 to France and edged Colombia 1–0 but failed to advance.
Riley has served as New Zealand’s captain since the 2017 Cyprus Cup. She has also played in the last four FIFA Women’s World Cups (2007, 2011, 2015, 2019).
A multi-sport athlete at St. Matthew’s, Riley went on to earn All-CIF honors at Harvard-Westlake High in Studio City and enjoyed a successful four-year career at Stanford University, converting from forward to outside back where she has played ever since. She played club for the Westside Breakers and Real So Cal and played seven games for the Pali Blues in 2009 at Stadium by the Sea.
In 2010 she joined FC Gold Pride of the now defunct Women’s Professional Soccer, tallying three assists and earning Rookie of the Year honors while helping the team win the league championship. She played for the Western New York Flash in 2011 and was finalist for Defender of the Year as the team won the WPS championship.
In 2012 Riley signed with the reigning Swedish champions, FC Malmo/Rosengard and in her first game with the club she assisted on the winning goal. She led the squad to three league crowns in six seasons before joining Chelsea in the English FA Women’s Super League. In July 2019, Riley signed with Bayern Munich of the Frauen-Bundesliga, the No. 1 women’s league in Germany.
In February 2020 Riley signed a one-year contract with Orlando, but the season was postponed due to COVID-19 and her team ended up withdrawing from the NWSL Challenge Cup. Last July, she temporarily rejoined Rosengard.
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