Palisadian Ali Riley has played in four FIFA Women’s World Cups for the New Zealand national team.
Photo courtesy of Football Ferns

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

No one in sports hates to lose more than Ali Riley.

After all, winning has defined her career since she laced up her first pair of soccer cleats. So when  the New Zealand women’s soccer team lost to Cameroon, officially eliminating it from FIFA Women’s World Cup competition, the Football Ferns’ veteran team captain took the defeat hard.

However, as she has always done, she is choosing to look ahead, not behind. On Sunday she took to Twitter to reveal her mixed emotions.

“Stages of getting knocked out of the World Cup:

Day 1: I don’t want to watch anymore and hope everyone loses.

Day 2: Okay, I’ll watch, but I only want my friends to do well.

Day 3: May the best team win.


Day 5+: How many days until 2023???”

Riley, now 31, plays left back and has been the captain of New Zeland since the 2017 Cyprus Cup.  Born in L.A. to longtime Palisadians John Riley and Bev Lowe, she grew up on Kagawa in the Alphabet Streets and was a multi-sport star at St. Matthew’s Parish School, also playing club for the Westside Breakers (now LA Breakers FC) and SoCal United (now Real SoCal).

She played at Harvard-Westlake High in Studio City, where she served as captain her senior year (leading the Wolverines to the 2006 Southern Section Division I final), and was a two-time Mission League Offensive MVP as well as a two-time first-team San Fernando Valley selection.

She then moved on to Stanford University, where she led the Cardinal to a pair of NCAA semifinal berths and one finals berth.

After playing in seven games for the Pali Blues (a team based in the Palisades that played its home games at Palisades High’s Stadium by the Sea), 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.

Last July, Riley signed to play wing-back  with English club Chelsea FC, the WSL and Women’s FA Cup champion. Riley joined the Blues from the Swedish club FC Rosengard, where she had played since 2012, winning three league titles and three Swedish cups.

Riley has played in four World Cups and three Olympic Games.

She made her Football Ferns debut against Australia and in 2007 and played for New Zealand at the  World Cup later that year in China, when the squad lost to Brazil (5-0), Denmark (2-0) and China (2-0). She scored her first international goal against Papua New Guinea in the finals of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup—a result that earned New Zealand a spot in the 2011 World Cup, where she assisted on the tying goal in extra time against Mexico that gave the team its first point ever in World Cup play. Riley went on to play in all three of the squad’s games at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.

This year, New Zealand failed to advance out of Group Play, falling to The Netherlands (1-0), Canada (2-0) and Cameroon (2-1).

After falling to reigning gold medalist USA 2-0 in its 2016 Olympic opener in Rio de Janeiro, New Zealand faced a must-win scenario against Colombia and Riley led the side to a 1-0 win that kept its hopes alive to advance to the knockout phase, although New Zealand was eliminated with a 3-0 loss to France. Riley, however, played every minute of every game.

Riley participated in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and the 2012 Summer Games in London.

Riley, who has run the Palisades Will Rogers race multiple times,  has earned numerous honors on the pitch. She was the Nike Junior Women’s Player of the Year in 2006, the Nike National Women’s Player of the Year five times and the Oceania Football Confederation MVP in 2009 and 2010.