International Soccer Star Ali Riley Is Anxious to Resume Her Pro Career with the Orlando Pride
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
When Ali Riley began her pro soccer career 10 years ago it was here in California, when she earned Rookie of the Year honors after helping FC Gold Pride from Santa Clara win the championship of Women’s Professional Soccer. Since winning her second WPS title with the Western New York Flash the next season, she has played overseas for three prominent clubs: FC Rosengård in Sweden, Chelsea FC in England and FC Bayern Munich in Germany.
The next game she plays will be back on American soil and the 32-year-old defender from Pacific Palisades is looking forward to it. The question is when that will be.
In February, Riley signed with the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League, founded in 2013 to replace WPS, which folded in 2012.
The NWSL announced on Monday that all teams may begin small group training. The league is targeting a late June start date to the season, which was supposed to open in April but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Orlando used allocation money to acquire Riley (also captain of the New Zealand Women’s National Team), from Bayern Munich and she joined on a one-year contract with an option for one additional year in central Florida.
“We’re so delighted to finally come to terms with Ali and Bayern, who we’d also like to thank in making this deal happen,” Pride GM Erik Ustruck said. “From an on-field standpoint, Ali solidifies and improves our back line heading into 2020, which was a key area of improvement for us this offseason. She provides many things we’re looking to add to the team: experience, both domestically and internationally; additional energy to our outside back position; and she’s a perfect fit to the culture we’ve worked to establish over the last year.”
Riley, who blossomed into a multi-sport star at St. Matthew’s Parish School, played club for the Westside Breakers and earned All-CIF honors at Harvard-Westlake High in Studio City, is very proud to put on the purple.
“I heard really great things [about Orlando] from an old friend of mine [Brazlian national team star] Marta, and I also have a lot of respect for [Head Coach] Marc Skinner and seeing how his teams play,” she said. “I think all around—this league, this country, the interest of the women’s game and the growth of this sport, the attention from the media and the fans—it’s something I want to be a part of. I hope both the mentality and attitude I bring, but also the technical ability and the experience I’ve had playing on some of the best teams in the world, will help bring a little more confidence and a little something different to contribute to a better season.”
Riley made three appearances for Bayern Munich after joining the Frauen-Bundesliga last July. Prior to that, she spent one season with Chelsea in England’s Women’s Super League (WSL), playing in nine games. In 2019, Riley played in her fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup for New Zealand. She was on the pitch every minute of the squad’s three tournament matches. In all, she has made 135 appearances for the Football Ferns and made her senior national team debut in February 2007. She has since represented that country at three Olympics to add to her vast international resume.
Prior to Chelsea, Riley spent seven seasons at FC Rosengård of the Damallsvenskan, the highest women’s division in Sweden. She was a three-time league champion for the Swedish side, even scoring four goals from her back line spot.
Riley has many acquaintances on the current Orlando roster, having played with Marta at FC Gold Pride, Western New York and FC Rosengård and having been teammates with Pride captain Ashlyn Harris and Alex Morgan on the 2011 Flash championship team.
Riley enjoyed a successful collegiate career at Stanford, playing 83 games for the Cardinal, and she made the Pac-10 First Team as a senior. She has played in three Olympics and four World Cups. As a young girl she sharpened her skills at the Palisades Recreation Center and earned Palisadian-Post Athlete of the Year honors numerous times.
Through 132 appearances for FC Rosengård from 2012-18 she became a fan favorite, assisting on the winning goal in her first game, the “Supercupen” (Super Cup).
Riley established roots during her time in Sweden. She met her partner, bought an apartment and learned the language. She was ready to settle down in Malmö, but she missed her parents (John Riley and Bev Lowe) who live on Kagawa in the Alphabet Streets, and realized she was ready for a fresh start back home in the USA.
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