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Q&A With Ashlyn Harris & Ali Krieger: FIFA World Cup Hopes, Align Probiotic, Motherhood, Mt. Rushmore of Soccer

LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Ashlyn Harris #18 and teammate Ali Krieger #11 pose with the World Cup after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France final match between the Netherlands and the United States at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France.  (Photo by Brad Smith/ Images)

LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Ashlyn Harris #18 and teammate Ali Krieger #11 pose with the World Cup after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France final match between the Netherlands and the United States at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Brad Smith/ Images)

You'll be hard-pressed to find two soccer stars who work harder together, on or off the field, than Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger. 

For over 15 years, Harris and Krieger have dominated women's soccer, winning countless titles and accolades at the amateur, professional and international level. Though they started their respective journeys into soccer in very different ways, they've been big parts of some of the most prolific US women's national teams in recent memory. 

Krieger has played defender and got her over 100 caps for the USWNT in 2008, while Harris played goalkeeper and boasts 25 caps of her own. Together, they've been a part of several World Cup squads, winning it all in 2015 and 2019. 

Now married with two kids, Harris and Krieger both play professionally for NY/NJ Gotham FC while building their brand off the field. They've now teamed up with Align Probiotic and their Women's Dual Action Capsules ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the 2023 NWSL season and the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

This interview is made possible by Align Probiotic.

TheSpun: What made the two of you want to get on board with Align Probiotic for their new product and campaign now?

Ashlyn Harris: It’s a women’s dual action supplement, which - as two females here - is pretty major. Not too often do you see things made for women, so that always excites us. I know there are some weird taboo topics to talk about like vaginal health. So it’s a good moment not just to educate women about vaginal and gut health and how they coexist, but it’s to educate men. 

Our bodies are different and we need to celebrate that. We need to understand that. There’s a lot that goes with the female body… but it has different needs. So the fact that scientists have teamed up on the Align-side of the brand to make a product FOR women is absolutely incredible. I’m really excited about this because I’m a woman who suffers these things - like my mood balance, especially my menstrual cycle. These things affect me and they affect my performance. I have to be at peak performance at a given moment. No one cares if it’s my menstrual cycle. No one cares if I’m having issues with my vaginal health. I have to perform. 

So having something like this in my corner, just to balance things out and get me at peak performance - it’s important, and it’s a game-changer because if I’m one- or two-percent better than my competitor, it’s the difference between winning and losing. So I’m very happy to be promoting this new product, this new supplement. I think it’s a game-changer - and I’m not just saying that because it’s cliche. I value my gut health and really think it’s the focal point of my well-being. We love partnering with companies such as Align that are really putting women at the forefront and focusing on women’s health and what comes with that.

Ali Krieger: It’s also just something simple you can do everyday and to set you up for success. Not only is it good for you on the field, but it’s good for us off the field and “performing” as a mom. Because once we’re done with training or a game we’re 100-percent stepping up to be parents and moms to our two kids. We don’t sit still. So we think this is setting us up for success… 

It’s just something very simple to set us up for good health. We like the ingredients and we think it will work. So, I really value this Dual Action Probiotic and we’re really excited to add that into our daily morning routine.

TheSpun: You’ve already learned that the USWNT will play Vietnam and the Netherlands in the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, but you’ll also be playing the winner of the playoff between Portugal, Cameroon and Thailand. Do you have a preference between those latter three?

Krieger: No preference. For us you go into the tournament just worrying about how you’re going to perform and how your team will be successful. To be the best you have to beat the best. It’s so cliche to say but it’s true. You have to go in there with the same mentality whether you’re going up against Thailand or France. I feel like you have to roll your sleeves up and do your best no matter who you play. And you have to perform very well. That’s what the team will have to do. I don’t think we look into the opponents TOO much. Leading up to the games you do your scouting and try to figure out how you’ll be successful against those teams. You focus on you, your team and how to be successful no matter who you play.

Harris: I agree with that.

United States women's national team's parade.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 10: Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger and Megan Rapinoe at The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Victory Parade and City Hall Ceremony on July 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

TheSpun: Vlatko Andonovski is heading into his first World Cup as the USWNT head coach. How does his coaching style differ from his predecessor, Jill Ellis?

Harris: I think every coach has a different approach. He’s very calming, not hardcore in your face. He’s a calming presence. He’s not there to motivate, not there to coddle. He’s there to be matter of fact, direct and execute a game plan. His style of play is very quite different - the way he runs his staff, the way he runs his team. I think he’s a very genuine presence. Vlatko is the same way to everyone on the field and off the field. I really value how he conducts himself. COVID was a big moment for him. International play and league play are really different and he’s gaining knowledge. 

I’m loving how right now the quality of the games are starting to get better and better and better as you’re seeing in the last few months. I don’t think the quality of opponents has been there (prior). I think when your back’s up against the wall and playing in England in front of 65,000 people and things aren’t going your way, and no one’s there to celebrate you - I think these are important boxes to check before you go into a world tournament. So I’m happy we’re getting those for these younger players… 

I’m hoping that these are good learning moments for these young players and for him. For me, if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Preparation is key for success. There’s no second chances at a world tournament. You have to be on, and you have to be on for the entire tournament. That’s the difference between the US and the rest of the world - we always find ways to win. The younger players have to learn that and the only way to learn is in the trench. You have to dig deep and figure out how to win.

Ashlyn Harris, Vlatko Andonovski and Megan Rapinoe

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 7: United States goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris #18 celebrates with Vlatko Andonovski and Megan Rapinoe #15 after a game between Mexico and USWNT at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 7, 2020 in Carson, California. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

TheSpun: How much film study do you do in preparation for the World Cup? Do you study every single team, or just the ones you have to face?

Krieger: I think you have to have a good idea of every team and what their strengths are. But you pay the (most) attention to the teams you’re going up against and there’s about a three-day preparation for that because the games are so close together. Obviously for the group stage you focus on one game at a time and move on to the next. There’s so much film, so much video, so much meeting time that you have… 

There’s a lot that goes into breaking down an opponent. We have extra meetings to figure out how we’re going to take down a team. There’s very few days in between but you prepare for the ones you’re going up against for sure.

julie ertz for team usa at world cup

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 16: Julie Ertz of USA Women Celebrates with Kelley O Hara of USA Women, Tobin Heath of USA Women, Crystal Dunn of USA Women, Alex Morgan of USA Women, Allie Long of USA Women, Megan Rapinoe of USA Women during the World Cup Women match between USA v Chile at the Parc des Princes on June 16, 2019 in Paris France (Photo by Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images)

TheSpun: Everyone knows the World Cup glory you two have enjoyed. But what have been your most memorable moments at the club level or college level?

Harris: I loved college. I loved playing for (UNC head coach) Anson Dorrance. I won three national championships during my time. It was some of the greatest experiences of my life. Professional sports is a whole different beast. You’re paid to play. It’s a job. It’s a business - completely different. I would say winning the WPS Championship in 2011 and winning Goalkeeper of the Year with the Western New York Flash was one of my most exciting times. But also the time that Orlando got an expansion team and I was able to come home and be able to see my family and friends and teachers and all of the people who supported me in my career in the stadium, at home, was a really special moment for me.

Kriger: I think for me it was playing overseas and winning the treble with FFC Frankfurt in my first year - including the Champions League - as an athlete. It was extra special because a few years later we got to play in the World Cup title game. That was a standout moment for me. In college, I never won a national championship (at Penn State) but we were ranked No. 1 and won four Big Ten championships and so many other honors… Those are really great memories at the club level. Playing for DC (with the Washington Spirit), my hometown team right after the Olympics (was special too). I really value that level of the development stage because it really sets you up for the national team. That allowed me to take that risk and get to the next level.

TheSpun: Who were the athletes players you both admired growing up?

Harris: We couldn’t be more different. I grew up in Coco Beach, Florida. I played with boys in soccer and baseball until I was 15. I skated, I surfed, I played basketball, I did it all. I had an older brother and we were obsessed with Hulk Hogan… (Wrestling) was a big part of my family culture. The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin - that was my jam as a kid. I didn’t even watch soccer on TV when I was growing up. I kind of just followed what my dad and brother did. I was obsessed with Tony Hawk and with Shaquille O’Neal because he was a legend in Orlando. Representation was a little different for me during my time and they were my idols.

Krieger: I grew up idolizing my brother because he also played soccer until I learned there was a national team and later a soccer league. So I started paying attention more closely and was attracted to some of the players. Mia Hamm, Kristine Lily, Julie Foudy, Cindy Parlow - those are some of the big names that I enjoyed watching and was inspired by. And when I grew to watch and understand the men’s league in Europe, I really enjoyed watching Michael Essien and Didier Drogba. Those were two of my favorite players when I was young. I just valued what they did as people and footballers.

TheSpun: Let’s have a fun speed round: Favorite post-game snack?

Krieger: Tenders and Fries, or pizza

Harris: I have a weird game stomach because I take in a lot of caffeine. I’ll take my shake after a game but it’s very hard for me

TheSpun: Favorite movie?

Ali: Double Jeopardy

Harris: The Goonies

TheSpun: Favorite athlete?

Krieger: Mohammed Ali. I think he’s incredible. I don’t love boxing but I love his determination, how he made himself and how much strength it took.

Harris: Serena Williams. I love her story, what she’s built and what she’s done for women and our culture. And what she’s done as a mom.

TheSpun: Who would play you in a movie?

Harris: Angelina Jolie

Krieger: Mila Kunis

TheSpun: Favorite sports teams?

Harris: Chelsea FC!

Krieger: Chelsea FC, the Washington Commanders (I grew up in DC), I’m a Caps fans, a Nats fans - a DC sports fan through and through.

TheSpun: Who do you have on the Mt. Rushmore of American soccer?

Harris: Probably just us and Megan Rapinoe… with Crystal Dunn. We’re not the OGs. We’re the most fun. We keep our homies together. If I’m plastered on a place forever, I want to be next to my homies.

TheSpun: How do you balance professional soccer life with parenthood?

Krieger: It’s a really tough balance. We try to make time for each other. As long as we’re (two of us) strong as a team, our sports teams are strong as a team. It’s really important to have great communication between the two of us. That’s what we really value.

Harris: People see this side of us and think we’re really buttoned up. But we fail and we’re not perfect. We own our s-t. I’m not a perfect wife, I’m not a perfect mom. The greatest gift about life is I get to attack it again. I’m not always going to get all of those things right. I’m constantly growing. We’re not perfect and we don’t want to be perfect.

TheSpun: Lastly, heading into the FIFA World Cup this month, what does the USMNT need to do to get through the Group Stage?

Harris: Anytime we’re talking sports, anytime we’re talking about the greatest teams and the greatest players. We need (Christian) Pulisic, we need the best players performing and carrying the team. That’s going to ignite and inspire the players to be the best that they can. We need to be operating at the such an incredible level to be very successful and good at this tournament. We hope that our players rise to the occasion and are carrying us through. That’s what makes sports exciting. It’s why we all tune in. They know we’re all supporting them. At the end of the day, everything you’ve done your entire life is for this moment. I’m really excited for the boys, for the fact that they’re even there. It’s the biggest tournament in the world, it’s the most exciting time. It really unites the country and such a special passion for the USA and what we represent. I hope they take it and run with it. I hope they don’t disappoint.

Ali: It comes down to mentality to perform well. Understanding that and having that mentality that you need to work your ass off to win the game, then taking games one at a time through that process. But there’s also got to be an understanding that doing some wild stuff like a bicycle kick isn’t gonna go well if you don’t train for it. Do what you’re comfortable doing. Individually, fight til the end. They have to have each others backs. We say this all the time: If someone’s having a bad game then someone needs to roll their sleeves up and do well. I think we will have success, we just have to believe it.

USMNT national anthem

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: The USMNT stands for the national anthem during a FIFA World Cup qualifier game between Panama and USMNT at Exploria Stadium on March 27, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)


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