Damallsvenskan Update and Interview with Ali Krieger

Ali Krieger in her new jersey
Ali Krieger in her new jersey

After a European Championship in Sweden this summer that saw Germany enhance its winning streak to six consecutive gold medals in Europe, the Swedish league Damallsvenskan is back. The two leading teams, defending champions Tyresö FF and LdB FC Malmö met just thirteen days after the final between Germany and Norway.

Despite a 2-1 lead for Tyresö and despite Malmö shortened to 10 players after defender Amanda Ilestedt had been sent off, Malmö managed to turn the game and score the decisive goal. Swiss international Ramona Bachmann decided the match after a perfect cross from Germany’s Anja Mittag. Malmö followed up their important away victory with a convincing 5-0 away win against cup winners Göteborg, while Tyresö left another two points after a draw, 1-1 at Örebro last Thursday. In that game, Nigerian international Sarah Michael scored one of this year’s most impressive goals, a tremendous shot from 20 yards out that gave Tyresö’s new goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris not the slightest chance.

In October, the UEFA Champion’s League will start their new season 2013/14 and in order to be prepared for that Swedish champions Tyresö has decided to reorganize their roster. Jessica Höglander, Annica Svensson, Elaine, Jennifer Egelryd, Pauline Hammarlund and Emilia Appelqvist have left the team and have been replaced by Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, Whitney Engen and Caroline Graham Hansen of Norway.

From September on, there will be five USWNT players in Tyresö. Since earlier the Swedish team has striker Christen Press and defender/midfielder Meghan Klingenberg in its roster. Press has scored 16 goals in the league so far and holds the first position among goalgetters in the league, six goals ahead of Anja Mittag and England’s Jodie Taylor who has left Göteborg and returned home.

On Tuesday last week both Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger arrived from the US where they finished their NWSL season with Washington Spirit.

Christen Press makes it 3-0 for Tyresö against Jitex
Christen Press makes it 3-0 for Tyresö against Jitex

After Saturday’s first home match against Jitex (Tyresö won 5-0 with Press scoring two goals and Krieger giving two assists) I had the opportunity to talk to Ali Krieger. Since I am German and read that Ali is fluent in German after almost five years in Frankfurt, I asked her which language she would prefer and she kindly let me choose. We ended up speaking German which Ali masters absolutely brilliantly.

Ali, why did you come to Sweden after your season in the US?

“I wanted to play real good soccer again, I wanted to play the Champions League in Europe and I wanted to work with Tony (Gustavsson; Tyresö’s coach). When I was injured last year, he was with the USWNT, unfortunately I wasn’t there, but I had heard so many good things about him from the other girls and especially Press and Kling(enberg). So I wanted to come here and play soccer for the forthcoming three months.

It’s really great to be here, this is really a great team with highly talented players. In some ways it is a huge difference to Washington where I have played earlier this year.”

Tyresö is the current Swedish champion with eleven internationals in their starting line-up. Besides all Americans, names like Vero Boquete (MVP, WPs 2010), Caroline Seger and currently injured Marta Vieira da Silva come to mind.

What is the biggest difference of playing soccer in the US and in Europe?

“Well, in the US it is mostly about running. We run too much. In Europe it is more about keeping the ball, feeling comfortable with it and develop tactical skills. I think that is one of the reasons why there are so many American players who want to play in Europe. We want to play different, play more with the ball. When we get back to training camps in the US you feel a little different and in some ways you are one step ahead.”

However, the US is No. 1 in the world and winning most of the international titles. Do you really need to change a winning game style?

“We are very strong. We work very hard on the pitch and believe every time that we will win the game. With this mentality, you will not lose often. But we also have a coach that is coming from Scotland and we’ve had Pia Sundhage before, so things have changed in the national team. But you see that even players like Pinoe (Megan Rapinoe) and Tobin (Heath) went and played in France, they also want to play good soccer, they want to change the game.

Tyresö has said that they want to keep their American players even during 2014. Will that be possible?

“I don’t know. US Soccer wants us to play in the NWSL, the league needs their USWNT players to make the audience come to watch us. We have talks about this and we’ll see what happens. I go from day to day and week to week.”

What was your biggest moment as a soccer player yet?

“That was definitely my PK against Brazil in the WC 2011. That gave me goose bumps. We were 1-2 behind for 54 minutes in that match and I really thought that was it with the WC, then suddenly comes Pinoe’s cross and Abby’s header. Then we went to PK’s and I did the deciding penalty. I literally thought of nothing when I was in that situation and as we say in America I hit it with my purse. A feeling that you cannot describe.”

You went a lot back and forth between the US and Germany for a couple of years?

“That was after the WC. Three weeks after I thought, what am I doing, I am sitting on my sofa and have to wait six more weeks. I wanted to have fun and play soccer, so I went back to Frankfurt. I had missed the girls, had a great experience in Germany, many fans. After my injury which happened in a qualifier against the Dominican Republic in a moment when we were leading like 7-0, it did not work that well in Frankfurt anymore. I wasn’t really happy anymore. We had three different coaches in a few months so I went back and into the NWSL. And now I am here.”