When FC Gold Pride ceased operations less than two months after winning the 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer Championship, more than two dozen players were left without a place to play. Ali Riley was one of them. Even though her stock rose after winning the 2010 WPS Rookie of the Year, she was like everyone else on her former team – a free agent. But she found a home in the offseason, one she’s looking forward to in a big way.
“I’m really excited,” Riley said via cell phone last week. “I think after the Pride folded, it was a disappointment. Then you just hope for the best.”
Once Gold Pride players became free agents, other WPS teams started calling, seeing who they could pick up. Riley ended up signing with the expansion Western New York Flash, a team that now features several of her former Gold Pride teammates, including Christine Sinclair and Marta.
“To be on a team with seven other Gold Pride teammates is going to be so much fun,” Riley said, but added that it may take some time to get used to the Rochester/Buffalo, New York weather. She’s always played soccer in warm and sunny California.
“I’m really worried,” Riley joked about playing in a city that has an average low temperature of 35 degrees in the month of April, the first month of the WPS season. “I’ve complained about the temperature in Northern California. We are very spoiled out here.”
Riley, who leaves Wednesday to play in the Cyprus Cup with the New Zealand Women’s National Team, will arrive in Buffalo on March 12. After a few weeks of training, Riley will play in her first match for the WNY Flash. The team’s WPS debut takes place in Boston against the Breakers, which features one of Riley’s best friends and former Stanford University and FC Gold Pride teammate, forward Kelley O’Hara.
“Kelley and I have played five years together. It’s going to be hard,” Riley said. “But I think it’ll be a good experience. I think we all want each other to do well. Hopefully, she (O’Hara) doesn’t score on me.”