Ali Krieger played every single minute of the 2017 season, and there is no doubt that she would have done the same in 2018 if it weren’t for an MCL injury in the middle of the season. The two-time World Cup starter played a couple of different roles this season, with 11 starts at the right back position, and eight starts in either a center back role, or right center back in the 3-5-2.
I thought a good test for where she excelled would be to look at my past player grades, and break them down by her position. At right back, she averaged a 5.59 grade from me. At center back, she averaged a 5.5. So although it does lean the way I thought it would, and show she had more of an impact at right back than in center, it wasn’t by as much as I thought it would be.
Although I loved her in center last year, I found myself waiting and hoping to see the lineup with her lined up on the right this year. After a bit of a slow start, she started to click, even when others weren’t. She helped Sydney Leroux open her account in purple with this ball dropped on a dime:
— NWSL (@NWSL) May 26, 2018
Here, she helps Kristen Edmonds open her 2018 account with a great soft lob:
— NWSL (@NWSL) July 15, 2018
That’s what veteran leadership does. It makes those around them better and find the top of their game, and she definitely provided that at key moments thoughout the season.
Like I said earlier, she would have easily played every single minute if not for the mid-season knee injury, appearing in 19 of the club’s 24 matches. She ended up with 1,675 minutes, which was still good enough for fourth place on the team. She didn’t score a goal but did assist on two, and finished with nine shots on the season, getting just one on target. She committed 12 fouls in 2018, drawing five in return, and was shown one yellow card.
Of those with over 90 minutes played, she was fourth in distribution at 76.1%. She had one fewer blocked shot than Monica at 16, and came in second on clearances at 60. She also tied Carson Pickett for second in interceptions at 46. She often was in the top three in touches during most games, unless she was anchored down in the defense.
Of all the season reviews I’ve done, this one was probably the hardest in determining the best game. What made it even more difficult is that I think I’m going to go with the May 2, 2-0 victory in Chicago, which has been selected a number of times now as others’ best game. What made it good in regards to Ali is that she was at maximum involvement. She led the team in touches with 84. Early in the game she put a great ball in to Sydney who then put a difficult shot on frame. Ultimately, the goal that put the game out of reach came when she intercepted the ball at midfield and immediately put it into the attack, which led to a Rachel Hill goal.
2018 Final Grade
The Mane Land staff ultimately settled on a 6 for Ali Krieger in the 2018 season. She had a bit of a slow start, and the injury in the middle of the season put her on hold for just over a month. Like I already said, I preferred her bombing up and down the side this year, and we only got that just over half the time. She did well enough at times in center, but the high grade performances were few and far between, and there were a few missteps along the way in key moments that cost the team. All said, she still was easily in the top third of the team this year despite the hurdles of 2018.
Short of the injury, there wasn’t any stop in 2018. She wasn’t ever really gassed in the late minutes of games, and has shown time and time again that she can provide many things for the Pride in 2019. There are plenty of options in a team, or even a league, that will need these players in a World Cup year. Depending on the Pride’s future coach, and the shape of the team in 2019, she could even find herself in a defensive midfield position if needed. That’s the versatility that she brings, and the kind of versatility that truly matters. The future is completely in her hands as far as I’m concerned and would love to see her back in 2019.