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Marta, Ali Krieger, Toni Pressley and more: the best moments from Off the Ball (so far)

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Ali Riley is more than just an award-winning defender. The Orlando Pride star is also an expert interviewer, eager experimenter, and, according to Marta, the best teammate. The New Zealand captain is also the host of Just Women’s Sports’ Off the Ball, a digital series which takes viewers behind the scenes with some of soccer’s biggest stars.

In season 1 of the series, Riley chatted with some of NWSL’s biggest names about their lives on and off the pitch. With season 2 around the corner, we’re looking back at the best highlights and hijinks from Off the Ball so far.

Ali Krieger: super mom

Ali Krieger joined Ali Riley in the Orlando Pride locker room to chat about her experience juggling being a new mom to baby Sloane with her role as a professional athlete. The Pride defender revealed to Riley that becoming a mom had made a huge impact on the way she approached progress and advocacy in sport.

“I hope that women get paid what they deserve,” Krieger said. “That’s super important for me as a mom, to continue to fight for equality and to continue to fight for what we deserve.”

Riley also got a swaddling lesson from her teammate, as the Off the Ball host volunteered to have herself wrapped up in a blanket in a must-see season finale spectacle.

In the zone with Erin McLeod

Erin McLeod started her sit down with a deep breathing exercise that nearly lulled Riley into a meditative state.

The veteran Canadian goalkeeper is known for her mindful approach to life on and off the pitch, including in her art practice. McLeod likens her “state of flow” in art to being “in the zone” on the soccer field. After talking about her work, Riley decided to put McLeod’s skills as an artist to the test, as the pair drew portraits of each other without looking at the canvas. Chaos, predictably, ensued.

Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir: Icelandic footballer, American Idol

Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir, affectionately known as Gunny, stopped by Off the Ball to chat with Riley about her formative love for rap music and basketball, with the Iceland native having spent part of her childhood in Philadelphia.

“I wanted to be the next Eminem, yet the next Allen Iverson,” Gunny says.

Although that dream didn’t exactly pan out, the Icelandic soccer star did show off her pipes, nailing a TikTok singing challenge with Riley.

Erika Tymrak on coming out of retirment

During their chat, Erika Tymrak gave Riley a behind-the-scenes look into her career-changing decision to come out of retirement after a year away from soccer.

“I honestly didn’t plan on coming back,” Tymrak said, but she “kept on getting signs” that she needed to return.

Eventually, Tymrak not only returned but doubled down on her professional training, changing her diet and exercise routine. A former dancer, Tymrak also took Riley to the studio for a lesson on the dance floor, testing Riley’s hand-eye coordination.

Toni Pressley gives Ali a makeover

Toni Pressley, an original member of the Orlando Pride, linked up with Riley in the team’s locker room for a conversation on vegan cooking, the power of crystals, and her Harry Styles obsession.

Riley then challenged Pressley to a blindfolded makeover that ended in a surprising new look.

Marta shows she’s more than just the GOAT

The one and only Marta Vieira da Silva sat down with Riley in April, kicking off season 1 with a bang.

Considered one of the greatest footballers to ever take the pitch, Marta revealed she is also a Guinness World Record holder, a vegan grill master, and a musical genius–is there anything she can’t do?

The secret to Marta’s success, she says, is her competitive spirit. “When I play, I play like with all of my heart, like I give everything. I be so angry when I lose, I be so happy when I win.”

Marta also showed her musical prowess, playing three different instruments in Riley’s exclusive locker-room shower concert.

Argentina Women’s National Team Stars Quit Over Pay, Conditions Dispute

Julieta Cruz of Argentina controls the ball during the FIFA Women's World Cup
The team qualified for the 2023 Women's World Cup, but failed to make it through the group stage. (Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Argentina women's national football team starting goalkeeper Laurina Oliveros, defender Julieta Cruz, and midfielder Lorena Benítez have officially left the team after a dispute over a lack of pay and conditions.

The news comes while the team is away at training camp during the FIFA international window. Argentina is scheduled to play two international friendlies at home against Costa Rica on May 31st and June 3rd — matches that Argentina's soccer association is refusing to pay its players for, according to Cruz and Benítez.

"We reached a point in which we are tired of the injustices, of not being valued, not being heard and, even worse, being humiliated," Cruz, a defender, wrote in an Instagram post published early this week. "We need improvements for Argentina's women's soccer national team, and I am not only talking about finances. I speak about training, having lunch, breakfast."

Argentina qualified for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, but failed to make it out of the group stage after losing to Italy and Sweden and drawing with South Africa. That stands in stark contrast to the men’s team, which won the 2022 FIFA World Cup behind star forward Lionel Messi. 

In her own Instagram post, Benítez alleged that players were provided only a ham and cheese sandwich and a banana as food during training camp, and that their families were being charged 5,000 pesos per ticket to see them compete against Costa Rica.

"And so millions of things we've been through, being FOOLED over and over again," Benítez added.

Goalkeeper Oliveros’s message was more concise than her teammates: "My wish for this year and the following? That generations to come may enjoy and be happy running behind the round, as perhaps at some point we were." 

Clark, Martin Square Off in First Pro WNBA Matchup

Kate Martin #20 of the Las Vegas Aces and Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever look on during the game
Things looked a little different Saturday night as the former Iowa teammates went head-to-head in Las Vegas. (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa teammates Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin shared the court once again on Saturday, this time as professionals.

It was Martin’s Aces that got the 99-80 win over Clark’s Fever in Las Vegas. The pair's former coaches Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald, and Raina Harmon were all in attendance to watch their Hawkeyes — Clark, Martin, and former national player of the year Megan Gustafson — take the court.

"It’s super special. It’s cool for our program, cool for Lisa, for Coach Jan, for all of them," Clark said in a pregame press conference. "They’ve known me since I’ve been 13 years old and now I’m 22 getting to live out my dream and they’ve been a huge part of that and helping me get here and helping Megan and Kate to get here too. It’s a great moment for them and I’m sure they’re not complaining about a trip to Vegas."

As for her college teammate, Clark had nothing but good things to say ahead of the showdown. 

"I’m just really happy for her and everything Coach [Becky] Hammon says about her is so true," she said. "Every person that played at Iowa and was around her knows that to be true. She’s the ultimate teammate, ultimate person, ultimate leader."

In the end, Martin stole the show with 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, while Clark amassed eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds over 29 minutes of playing time. 

"It was weird," Martin admitted after the game. "I'm not going to lie — just looking out on the court and seeing her in a different jersey than me, it was obviously different. But it's really fun. We're both living out our dreams right now."

The Aces next meet the fever on July 2nd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

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