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For Ali Krieger, reaching the 2023 NWSL Championship means a lot. So, too, does the support she has received from Megan Rapinoe, who she’ll be going up against Saturday in the final game of their careers.

The Gotham FC captain never imagined this storybook ending, but Krieger feels “grateful and lucky” that she and her friend get to share the field one last time. Krieger, 39, and Rapinoe, 38, played together on the U.S. women’s national team for years, winning the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles.

And while they’re not wearing the same jersey this time around, the clash between Gotham FC and OL Reign will allow the soccer world to honor the two retiring stars.

“I am so happy that we get to celebrate together,” Krieger said Thursday.

Krieger announced her impending retirement ahead of the NWSL season, and Rapinoe followed, announcing hers ahead of the World Cup. They’re two of the best to play the game at their respective positions, and they’ve been putting off retirement for as long as they can – especially considering that neither has won an NWSL title yet.

“We were joking around because we’re like, are we really dragging out our NWSL experience to the max like the very last moment, very last game over the years?” Krieger said. “Like, so tired and fighting and playing and training, our very last chance, we really dragged it out. So we’re getting the full experience this year.”

Krieger has watched Rapinoe from up close and from afar, and she has plenty of praise for the Reign forward, calling her “magic” on the field.

“She just is so individually, technically good, and no one’s like it,” she said. “When she’s on the field, she just brings this electrifying element to the game and to the team that you give her the ball and you know something good is gonna happen.”

Krieger and Rapinoe are proud of one another. And while each wants to win as bad as the other, they’ll embark on their next chapters with their friendship stronger than ever.

“She has been rock solid for me as a best friend,” Krieger said.

And while Krieger did not want to delve too deeply into her personal life, she acknowledged her tough time of late. Her wife and former USWNT and Gotham FC teammate Ashlyn Harris filed for divorce in September.

“My personal life has been very difficult since about June, and she’s been there supporting me through that,” Krieger said. “And I think that’s what teammates are for. When you not only go through tough times on the field, when you have tough times off the field and you can lean on those friends that you’ve felt lifelong friendships with.

“I think, no matter what happens, we’re always going to be there for each other and it goes far beyond the playing field.”

Two-time World Cup champions Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger are splitting up after nearly four years of marriage.

Harris filed for divorce from Krieger in September, People Magazine reported Wednesday.

The two met in 2010 while playing for the U.S. women’s national team, instantly clicking and becoming “really close friends.” Both played for the Orlando Pride together from 2017 until 2021, when they joined Gotham FC. After winning the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles with the USWNT, Harris and Krieger were married in December 2019.

“We always sat next to each other on the bus and on flights, and we kind of just talked about our dreams and our hopes and what we wanted to do one day when we grew up. Because at the time, we were kids,” Harris exclusively told PEOPLE when announcing their engagement in 2019. “The rest has kind of been history. Here we are nine years later, and we’re going to be getting married this year.”

On their first wedding anniversary in 2020, Krieger shared that the year had been “weird,” but that they had gotten through it together.

“Our first year of marriage got very weird, but we made it through together — crying, smiling and laughing through the difficult moments and sharing an even closer bond than ever before,” Krieger wrote on social media. “Spending A LOT of quality time with you this year has made me love you even more and more each day.”

The former USWNT and Gotham FC teammates share two children — daughter Sloane, whom they adopted in 2021, and son Ocean, whom they adopted in the 2022.

Harris, 37, served as the backup goalkeeper for the USWNT during its World Cup runs in 2015 and 2019. She also became the first NWSL player to reach 500 saves before retiring after the 2022 season. Upon retirement, Harris joined Gotham’s front office in November 2022 as Global Creative Advisor, a newly-created position.

Krieger, 39, is preparing to retire from Gotham FC at the end of the 2023 NWSL season. The defender made 108 appearances for the USWNT from 2008 through 2019.

The U.S. women’s national team roster for the 2023 Women’s World Cup unveiled on Wednesday is markedly different from the one that took home the top prize in 2019.

While just two members of the 2019 squad have retired — Carli Lloyd and Ashlyn Harris — only nine players from that team will be competing at this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Here’s a look at where the 23 members of the 2019 World Cup-winning team are now.

Injured USWNT players

Injuries have been a major theme in the lead-up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and multiple members of the 2019 U.S. team are missing for that reason. The latest to join the injury list: USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn. The two-time World Cup champion has been dealing with an ankle injury and confirmed on Friday that there was “too much variability” in her return to play timeline to be named to the squad.

Other 2019 World Cup champions who are out with injury? Sam Mewis, Mallory Swanson, and Abby Dahlkemper. Tobin Press missed the end of the 2022 NWSL season with an injury and is not currently signed with a club team, while Christen Press is still rehabbing after she tore her ACL in June 2022.

Still playing, but not with the USWNT

Four members of the 2019 World Cup-winning team are still playing in the NWSL, but haven’t been called up to the U.S. national team in over a year. Allie Long (last cap: November 2019) and Ali Krieger (last cap: January 2021) are teammates for Gotham FC, with Krieger planning to retire at the end of the season. Two-time World Cup champion Morgan Gautrat (last cap: February 2022) joined the Kansas City Current ahead of the NWSL season, while Jessica McDonald (last cap: March 2020) plays for Racing Louisville. McDonald announced in May that she will miss the entire 2023 NWSL season while pregnant with her second child. The 35-year-old will serve as a studio analyst for Optus Sport during the World Cup this summer.

Missed the cut

Defender Tierna Davidson and goalkeeper A.D. Franch were in the running for the 2023 roster after appearing in recent USWNT camps but just missed Wednesday’s cut. Davidson made her return to competitive soccer this season after tearing her ACL in March 2022, but the 24-year-old did not make the cut after representing the U.S. in 2019. Likely based on recent NWSL form, Andonovski named Aubrey Kingsbury as the third-string goalkeeper over Franch.

USWNT champs making their World Cup return

That brings us to the returners from 2019. Kelley O’Hara, Lindsey Horan, Alex Morgan, Alyssa Naeher, Crystal Dunn and Megan Rapinoe will all make their World Cup return in Australia and New Zealand. Rapinoe, Morgan and O’Hara each competed at three previous World Cups (2011, 2015, 2019), with Naeher joining in to win back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2019.

Rose Lavelle’s role with the USWNT has only grown since she scored in the 2019 World Cup final. Upon suffering a knee injury in April, her status became less certain, but Andonovski had enough faith in her progress to name her to the 2023 roster. On Wednesday, the coach said Lavelle’s injury is “not a worry for us.”

Until recently, most people didn’t expect two-time World Cup champion Julie Ertz to factor into the 2023 squad. The midfielder suffered an MCL strain in the lead-up to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and took time off after the Games to rehab. She then sat out the 2022 NWSL season while pregnant with her first child, giving birth to son Madden last August. In February, U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski said the team was “probably not going to be able to count on [her] in the World Cup.” But Ertz made her USWNT return for the team’s final training camp and friendlies in April, signed with Angel City FC and was officially named to her third World Cup roster on Wednesday.

Defender Emily Sonnett was considered on the bubble in the lead-up to the roster reveal, but the veteran earned a spot on the U.S. depth chart due in part to injuries on the backline and versatility on the frontline.

When Ashlyn Harris retired from soccer after the 2022 NWSL season, she stepped into a new role as Gotham FC creative director. As such, she’s had plenty of time to think about NWSL kits: The good. The bad. The ugly.

In the latest episode of Snacks, co-hosts Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams asked Harris about the latest crop of NWSL uniforms, and the former goalkeeper didn’t hold back.

The Portland Thorns’ polarizing Ed Hardy-style kits?

“I hate it. It’s just so far out,” she said. “I just, I don’t love it. I don’t get it. I don’t even get it.”

While Mewis likes the Thorns’ tattoo-inspired design for being “different,” Williams posed the question: “Is different always best?”

“See, this is why people need creative advisors,” Harris said. “Because it was a miss for me. But if they love it, go on sister.”

Still, Harris likes the Thorns’ kits better than those of the San Diego Wave.

“I can tell you the one I dislike the most is definitely San Diego,” she said. “I don’t know what happened there. That looks like pop art from a U-9 girls team.”

Overall, she wants to see more interesting looks across the board in the NWSL, noting that “in general we could be a little bit more creative and fun with our women’s jerseys.”

“I don’t necessarily really love any, I’ve got to be honest,” she said. “There’s none that I’m like ‘Woah, they did that right.’”

Harris is in talks with Nike on potential third kits, limited edition kits and collaboration kits to bring spice to the Gotham FC fashion lineup. But she also noted the tough task teams face to produce the kits due to supply chain issues and production backlogs.

“Production after COVID is difficult,” she said. “Getting things in on time – trust me, I’m in the thick of it designing out capsules – it’s not easy. It’s coming from different places that are backed up and it’s hard. It’s harder than it seems.”

Ashlyn Harris doesn’t miss soccer.

“Not a f–ing second,” Harris said when asked on the most recent episode of Snacks. “I don’t miss it for a second.”

The former U.S. women’s national team goalkeeper, who also became the first NWSL player to reach 500 saves, retired at the end of 2022 after 12 professional seasons. She made 25 appearances for the USWNT and is a two-time World Cup winner. But she is enjoying her retirement to the fullest.

“I am living my best life,” she told Snacks co-hosts Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis. “I don’t have schedules. I don’t have to (say), ‘Oh, I can’t, I have to be in bed by 9:30. I have training early.’

“I just live. If I need to fly home to Florida to see someone, I fly home to Florida to see someone. These days, they’re forever behind me.”

Harris is finally doing the things that she never had time to do, from dancing to grabbing cocktails with friends. She is also serving as the creative director for Gotham FC, the club for which she played her last NWSL season and for which her wife Ali Krieger still plays.

“The amount of pressure we live under, it’s just not sustainable forever,” she said. “Everyone has an opinion of, I mean the dumbest shit. … It’s just exhausting. And now it’s like, I don’t care what people think of me. I don’t have to worry about performing. I don’t have to worry.”

While she gets stressed watching the national team play – to the point that she’s “literally picking and peeling back every nail and cuticle I have on my body” – she isn’t going to miss being in the heat of the moment for the USWNT.

“Soccer was just kind of something I did. It’s not really who I am,” she said. “It’s always been about the people for me and the journey and the process and living life like extraordinary. So I’m excited for this opportunity for a lot of young people.”

Before Ashlyn Harris announced her retirement from soccer last month at the U.S. women’s national team’s Players’ Ball, she finished her NWSL career with Gotham FC during the 2022 NWSL season.

Harris’ trade to the New Jersey/New York club alongside wife and defender Ali Krieger last December meant the Florida native and longtime Orlando Pride goalkeeper had to get acclimated to new playing conditions in the Northeast. Harris made eight starts for Gotham before injuring her knee and undergoing surgery in September. The club parted ways with head coach Scott Parkinson in August and stumbled to last place in the league at 4-17-1.

Harris recently told Gotham teammate Allie Long on her podcast, “Mom Goals,” with Krieger that she missed her family and home in Florida as the season wore on.

“The season we had, I was so unhappy here,” Harris said. “I was like, ‘F—k man, why did I pick up and take my family here?’ Like, what am I doing? My whole life was set up there. My whole family’s there. Our life was there. … I was not in a good place.”

Krieger cited the weather and injuries as reasons for Harris’ frustrations.

“I wanted to go home halfway through the season,” said the 37-year-old.

In July, the couple received news of the birth of a baby boy in Philadelphia and, after much deliberation, decided to put their names in for adoption consideration. The next month, the two welcomed son Ocean, their second adopted child together, and realized the blessing of their relocation.

“I told Ali, I’m like, ‘This is why we’re here. Like, we have to do this. This is why we came here,'” Harris said. “It is a total sign in that, like, this is where we’re supposed to be.”

The two will remain in New Jersey/New York through at least next year, with Krieger leading Gotham’s backline on the field and Harris serving in the club’s front office as global creative advisor.

U.S. women’s national team standouts Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger said FIFA’s decision to host the men’s World Cup in Qatar, a country where same-sex relationships are illegal, moved soccer “five steps backwards.”

Qatar has come under fire for human rights violations as well as the persecution of LGBTQ+ people. The host nation also has been accused of bribing FIFA to win the privilege of hosting the event.

Players on participating men’s national teams have backed off plans to wear rainbow armbands due to the threat of yellow cards, but former England women’s national team star and current BBC pundit Alex Scott wore one during a broadcast in a show of support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Harris and Krieger, speaking on their new series “The Most Important Thing,” addressed FIFA’s decision to hold the tournament in Qatar, calling it “so unfortunate.” The former USWNT teammates, who won the World Cup together in 2015 and 2019, are married with two children.

“It is one of the most important tournaments, if not the most important tournament, in all of sports, in the entire world,” Krieger said. “It’s supposed to bring people together and be inclusive, be accepting. And it’s in a country that is so behind and homophobic.”

Harris questioned the impact the tournament could have on the LGBTQ+ community, including the effect on players who count themselves as part of that community.

“Think about a young football player, players who are there, that are gay, who are so scared, who don’t feel safe,” she said. “How are we showing up for the queer community, the younger generation?”

“For Gianni to stand up in a press conference and say, ‘I understand, I was bullied as a kid. I had red hair and freckles.’ Come on. You are not marginalized,” Harris continued, addressing FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s much-maligned pre-tournament press conference. “He could barely even say the word gay.

“You’re supporting [Qatar] by allowing it to even happen, and putting [the World Cup] in countries like this that don’t accept [the LGBTQ+ community]. So we took five steps backwards and now you want me to support you in your decision-making moving forward?”

The USMNT had redesigned its logo to include the rainbow at their Al Gharrafa training facility, but the team hasn’t worn that logo during games. The team is only displaying the rainbow crest in areas that it controls, including in pre-match parties before World Cup games. And so far, no USMNT players have spoken out.

“I wonder what our men are thinking and feeling right now, because I haven’t really seen a lot of them speak out on this topic. Because I know for us and our team, we’re 100 percent together,” Krieger said. “We’re protesting. We’re speaking up. We’re using our platforms. We’re doing the absolute most against it.”

“We wouldn’t be playing in this tournament,” added Harris.

“So I wonder why it’s so difficult for our men to do the same. And to fight for issues they believe in and fight more on this grand stage. It’s the perfect time,” Krieger continued. “You have to be careful, because you don’t want to take away from the task at hand but these are people’s lives. These are your coworkers’ lives.”

Two-time World Cup winner Ashlyn Harris announced her retirement from soccer on Monday, bringing to an end her 13-year professional career.

Harris had been a member of the U.S. women’s national team since 2013, and she featured on the 2015 and 2019 World Cup rosters. She also played in all 10 seasons of the NWSL, including this past year with NJ/NY Gotham FC.

“It has been one of my greatest honors to represent this country. I started this journey with the Federation at the age of 13,” she said in a speech Monday at the Players’ Ball, an event hosted by the USWNT Players Association. “I was a young, troubled kid looking for belonging. And I found that here. In a turbulent time in my life, soccer became home.

“The road became my safe space. And the people became my family. It has been an incredible run. I’m proud of what I accomplished, but more importantly I’m proud of the woman I’ve become.”

Harris began her international career in 2002, when she helped the U.S. to the title at the U-19 Women’s World Championship at 16 years old.

“It’s never been about the gold medals, the wins, the losses. The heart of this journey has always been the people,” she continued. “So I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for loving me, and pushing me to heights I never knew were possible. To my lifers in this room, you have been the greatest gift in this journey.”

A two-time NCAA title winner at North Carolina, Harris made her senior national team debut in a 1-1 draw with Sweden at the Algarve Cup in Portugal in 2013.

Of her 25 appearances for the U.S., 21 were starts. She also recorded nine clean sheets and recorded a 17-2-2 record for the USWNT. Her final match for the USWNT was an 8-0 win over Panama in Olympic qualifying in 2020.

“I’m proud of the woman I’ve become, and I can only thank the people who have supported me and lifted me throughout it all,” she said. “Thank you to all my youth national team coaches, full national team coaches, goalkeeper coaches, support staff, and everyone in between.

“To all my teammates, you have been the driving force to my longevity. This journey has always been about the people for me, so thank you for all the incredible memories and life-long friendships. To the fans, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope in some small way I’ve impacted your lives the way you all have impacted mine.”

Harris also took the time to thank her wife, Gotham FC and USWNT defender Ali Krieger.

“I owe everything to this sport, because it led me to you,” said Harris. “I would never be where I am without you.

“So I leave you with this, if I can leave you with anything: never, never, never underestimate the influence you have over people with the platform you’ve been given. Continue to be champions of change. Let’s leave this game better than we found it.”

In her retirement, Harris will join Gotham FC’s front office as global creative advisor, a newly-created position. She’ll work with the club’s marketing team as well as with other creatives and brands to help drive the artistic direction of the team.

“I’m excited for this next phase of my career and to have this special opportunity to continue with Gotham FC in this role,” Harris said. “There is so much we can do as a club to further solidify its presence in this market and transform expectations of what a women’s soccer club can be.”

Ashlyn Harris won’t lie: It’s been a tough year.

Before the 2022 NWSL season began, she and her family moved from the familiar confines of Florida to the fast-paced lifestyle of New York City. After growing up in Florida and playing for the Orlando Pride since 2016, Harris was traded to NJ/NY Gotham FC in December alongside wife and teammate Ali Krieger. All of a sudden, they needed to find a new school for daughter Sloane (some of the schools had two-year waiting lists) and hire new nannies. Their lives got even busier in August with the adoption of their second child, Ocean.

Meanwhile, in life outside their home, emotions were running high as multiple parties conducted investigations into abuse, harassment and discrimination in the NWSL. On Oct. 1, U.S. Soccer released the Sally Yates report, which revealed new details of “systemic” sexual and emotional abuse by former NWSL coaches and attempts by club and league officials to cover it up. The NWSL and NWSLPA are expected to release their own joint investigation by the end of the year.

“I just feel like it’s been a really, really tough NWSL year for a lot of people with all of the stuff going on,” Harris recently told Just Women’s Sports. “I’m happy that we now can move forward. I’m happy that we’re building a culture where safety is the priority of the players, and I feel like a lot of players in the NSWL are just tired. So I’m happy to start anew and start a new culture moving forward where the players’ health and safety come first.

“Soccer is just the game we play. I just want to make sure that everyone’s safe and mentally OK.”

On top of all of those moving parts, Gotham FC finished dead-last in the 2022 NWSL standings with four wins, 17 losses and one draw despite making numerous high-profile additions in the offseason. Harris and Krieger have since demanded change from the franchise, knowing there’s vast potential with the new ownership group, including sports celebrities Eli Manning, Sue Bird and Kevin Durant.

“It’s definitely been tough because I love winning,” Harris said of the season. “I love competing, but also I understand that there can only be one winner. That’s why I love this sport. That’s why it’s so challenging at the highest level.

“The air is very thin at the top, and I think that’s what drives me every day to continue doing what I do and continue being the best at my craft and dedicating time and energy and effort into being the best player and person I can possibly be every day.”

Harris has never been one to let material success define her. In her home office, there aren’t medals or award plaques, or any trace of the two decades that the two-time World Cup champion has played at various levels of the U.S. women’s national team.

“That stuff collects dust,” the goalkeeper said.

Being a soccer star is only a small part of Harris’ identity. She hopes her legacy will be about much more than success on the field.

“I want people to know me, like genuinely know me, feel me, see me,” Harris said. “That I, in some small way, have changed their life on a personal level. I’ve impacted them. That when I am no longer here, people know me for the way I made them feel.”

She has 36 years of experience in life and soccer that she’s ready to share with others.

To Harris, there’s no better way to achieve that than to become a mentor to young athletes. This month, Harris launched a partnership with Versus, a sports edtech platform that trains kids on the physical and mental skills needed to succeed in sports and life. Originally offering courses in baseball and softball, Versus added a soccer vertical that Harris joined alongside Krieger and USWNT teammate Kelley O’Hara.

Known for her candidness, Harris is giving aspiring athletes the chance to get to know her and ask her personal questions about how she’s handled adversity, such as in the past year. She hopes to provide them with the tools to understand themselves off the field in a way that will help them overcome their own challenges.

One of Harris’ key points in her mentorship is the power of what happens when no one is watching. Those decisions, she says, are what separate the good from the great because, while everyone at the top is technically gifted, their mindsets aren’t always the same.

(Photo courtesy of Versus)

The toughest challenges Harris has faced are injuries. Over the course of her soccer career, she’s torn her ACL and lateral meniscus, and in September she underwent knee surgery as Gotham stumbled to last place in the standings. Recovery periods, she says, are when she makes the tough, off-field choices that shape her the most.

“It’s a really, really tough mental place to be in because you have to get fit again. You have to get played in again. You don’t just hop back in where you left off … you can’t slip or someone else will take your job,” she said. “When you get to those points in your career, where you’re at a crossroads, like, ‘Man, can I even do this? Am I going to be able to come back from this?’ That’s when you build character and that’s when you learn the most about yourself, is when you’re in the trenches.”

Harris commits to the same decision every time: She never quits.

“I think a lot of people throw the towel in when it gets too hard and I just don’t have that in me. I just have never quit at anything in my life,” she said. “Ask my wife. We compete like crazy. It’s hilarious in our household, but that’s the way we tick. That’s the difference between people who are good and people who are excellent.”

Harris spent hours filming episodes for the Versus soccer launch, which give users the ability to ask questions and receive responses through conversational video A.I. technology. She doesn’t want to “snow plow” or move obstacles for the athletes she’s mentoring, but she hopes to give them the tools to do it on their own.

“Life is tough. It’s hard, and I don’t like to sugarcoat that for people,” she said.

“I just try to continue every day to improve and be the best version of myself. I can only control my mental, physical, emotional state.”

Through the trials of the past year, Harris is finally starting to see the life that she imagined for herself and her family in New York coming together.

“It’s definitely been really great,” she said of the city. “I love the diversity. I love the culture. I love the acceptance. I love feeling safe in New York. It seems like overall, being a biracial, queer family, it’s an easier landing for us.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

NJ/NY Gotham FC goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris has undergone successful surgery on her knee, announcing the news on Twitter Sunday.

“I just underwent a successful right knee surgery on Wednesday,” Harris wrote. “I will not be at todays game as I continue my recovery at home in FL. I wanted to wish the team the best of luck tonight. I will be back on the field in a few weeks.”

Harris’ absence is the latest in a series of setbacks for Gotham FC. The NJ/NY club currently sits last in the NWSL standings behind a 4-12-0 record. Losing their last seven games and with only six matchups remaining in the season, Gotham FC is effectively out of postseason contention.

Gotham’s end to the year is surprising given the talk of a win-now team being assembled ahead of the 2022 campaign. Key players like Kristie Mewis, Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger were signed to the team in the offseason, joining an impressive roster that includes Margaret Purce, Ifeoma Onumonu and Imani Dorsey.

The squad, however, never gelled on the pitch, with Gotham’s play often appearing disjointed and haphazard. Perhaps unsurprisingly, head coach Scott Parkinson was fired in August following a dismal run.

Gotham FC has also had to deal with shake-ups in their lineup, with Allie Long away on maternity leave, Dorsey battling injury and 2021 NWSL Defender of the Year Caprice Dydasco traded to the Houston Dash.

“For me, I know it’s frustrating and infuriating because it’s like, yes, I’ve been here for a while, and I’ve seen this club grow and want to continue to see it grow, but I also have to recognize so much change has happened in a very short amount of time and sometimes it takes a little bit for change,” Dorsey told Just Women’s Sports in July. “The level you want to get to will still take some time,” said Dorsey.

Since Parkinson’s departure, Hue Menzies has stepped up as interim head coach, hoping to give Gotham something to build on for next season.