By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
For someone who grew up on Kagawa Street in the Palisades the sport of soccer has taken Ali Riley on quite a journey… all across the United States and five continents and the next chapter in her career will be with Bayern Munich of the Frauen-Bundesliga, the top women’s league in Germany.
Riley, a 31-year-old left back who signed last Thursday, joins Bayern following one season with Chelsea FC of the English Women’s Super League, where her playing time was restricted due to a foot injury suffered during the preseason. She appeared in 17 total games, seven of them starts.
Riley, daughter of longtime Palisadians and Palisades Will Rogers 5/10K Run participants John Riley and Bev Lowe, had joined Chelsea from Swedish side Rosengard in the summer of 2018, a few months after facing the Blues in the Champions League.
Prior to her six years in Sweden she played for Western New York Flash, where current Chelsea manager Emma Hayes was GM.
Riley’s last match for Chelsea came against Yeovil Town in the Blues’ second-to-last game of the season, when she played 90 minutes in an 8-0 win.
“As the captain of New Zealand and for a player her age, it’s absolutely vital she’s playing week in, week out,” Hayes said. “We couldn’t guarantee that with the squad numbers we have and the lack of Champions League football. She’s made a telling impact on the Chelsea community, throughout the club—the amount of compliments I’ve received, from the media team, the education department, through to commercial. They’ve all said what a wonderful role model Ali is for the women’s department. She’s an advocate of a lot of positive news stories and I wish her all the best with her next career move. She’ll be a huge success.”
Riley is a vastly experienced club and international player, having captained New Zealand since 2017. The former multi-sport star at St. Matthew’s Parish School is a fan favorite wherever she goes because of her likeable personality and positive outlook.
Bayern is one of the top clubs in the women’s game, having taken second in the Frauen-Bundesliga three years straight and making the Champions League semifinals.
“I’m very excited and looking forward to getting started and being part of this great club,” Riley said. “Of course I want to win titles and I’m looking forward to playing in the Champions League. I want to bring in my experience and spirit and help make the club successful.”
Having headlined the Palisadian-Post Athletes of the Year list numerous times, Riley took last month’s World Cup in France hard, but five days after a defeat to Cameroon eliminated her New Zealand squad she tweeted: “How many days until 2023?”
Born in L.A. but with dual citizenship because her dad is a Kiwi, Riley played club for the Westside Breakers (now LA Breakers FC) and SoCal United (now Real SoCal) and was the Mission League Offensive MVP while captaining Harvard-Westlake High to the CIF finals as a senior.
She then led Stanford University to two NCAA semifinals and one final. After playing in seven games for the Pali Blues (a team based in the Palisades that played home games at Palisades High), she earned Rookie of the Year honors while leading FC Gold Pride to the Women’s Professional Soccer title in 2010. The next year she piloted the New York Flash to the WPS title.
Riley has participated in four World Cups and three Olympics.She made her Football Ferns debut against Australia in 2007 and tallied her first international goal against Papua New Guinea in the OFC Women’s Nations Cup—a result that earned New Zealand a spot in the 2011 World Cup.