Riley helping to lead New Zealand to new soccer heights

By Rick Eymer

Ali Riley has played 75 games with the New Zealand national women's soccer team. Photo by Stanford Athletics.
Ali Riley hasn't had much time to visit her old stomping grounds. Playing for the New Zealand national women's team takes up a lot of her time.

The Stanford grad plays in the back and has already appeared in a World Cup and Olympics with the Ferns. She's helping New Zealand grow into an international contender.

"Once we settled down I think we played our game," Riley said after losing to the United States national team, 4-1, at Candlestick Park in an International Friendly in front of 16,315 fans. "I think we showed in the second half how we've developed. We're looking to build for World Cup and the Olympics."

Riley was one of four Stanford grads who took the field Sunday for the exhibition game. Christen Press, who scored a goal, Nicole Barnhart, who was in the net for the second half and Rachel Buehler, who played all 90 minutes on defense, played for Team USA.

"I haven't been able to visit my old stomping grounds," Riley said. "We leave so early in the morning I have no chance. I'll have to come back when I have some time."

The U.S. and New Zealand play again Wednesday in Columbus and Riley hopes to be able to catch up with her former Cardinal teammates then.

Riley, who turns 26 on Wednesday, played in her 75th career match with New Zealand. She's one of the team leaders and is a calming influence on the back line.

"Ali is great," New Zealand coach Tony Readings said. "We know she's a great defender; they aren't many players in the world who can get behind her. She's emerged as a leader and is pretty consistent."

Press, who scored her eighth goal in 11 games, said it was special being able to play, and score, in front of her family, many of whom were seeing her for the first time.

"I had so much family here, from a five-year cousin to an 80-year grandmother," Press said. "They don't travel so this could be the only time they will see me play."

Press gave the Americans a 3-0 lead just before halftime, kicking it low and hard from 18 feet out to the far post.

"The ball popped out right to me," Press said. "I thought it was time to shot and score."

Press plans to return to Sweden to compete in the Champions League and then return to play professional soccer in the United States.

"I think they'll probably sort out a team for me," she said. "I'll just go where they say."


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Petroski
a resident of another community
on Oct 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I was 1 of the 16,315 at Candlestick yesterday cheering for Women's Soccer. There were 2 Kiwi's sitting behind us, so my wife and I joined them in cheering on the Ferns (big chasm between #1 and #19 in women's soccer).
Ali played great, just as she did at Stanford and for our Gold Pride team back in 2010 when they won the Cup.

Congrats to Ali and the Ferns for their resolve: you made the match worth going to!

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