Tag Archives: hannah wilkinson

Olympics – Quarterfinals Preview: Six Degrees Of Ali Riley

“Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.”  – Grateful Dead

There might be someone on this planet that doesn’t like Ali Riley. Maybe she cut someone off in traffic somewhere once, and that person swears revenge. Maybe when she was playing at Stanford, she smiled a little too much and it rubbed someone the wrong way. But I’ve never talked to anyone who has a bad thing to say about Ali Riley. In fact, I’ve never talked with anyone who’s talked with anyone who’s been negative toward her.

Call it Six Degrees of lack of Ali Riley Negativity, I guess.

Riley grew up like any talented young soccer player in southern California, dreaming of playing on the biggest stage, which was within a stone’s throw of Riley’s home when Ali was just 11 and the United States beat China to win the World Cup in front of 90,000 people at the Rose Bowl in 1999. She continued up the youth ranks, good enough to get her a scholarship to Stanford, where she would eventually lead them to the national championship game in 2009.

Along the way, she got the attention of the national team, playing in the 2006 U-20 World Cup, and making her full international debut at a major tournament in Beijing two years later. Now a fixture with the national team, she might be its biggest star and with that comes all the publicity.

Of course, I’m not really fooling anyone reading this, am I? I mean, she has 60 caps for New Zealand by now, right?

Funny how life works.

When she was about to enter college, Ali’s dad John, a UCLA economics professor who grew up in New Zealand, decided to make a speculative phone call to people he knew in New Zealand to say his daughter might be able to help them if they wished. Riley had never been called into a youth national team here in the States, and by most accounts, had never really expected to. Making the U.S. national team is not as easy as it looks. Do the math of Division I college programs and quality clubs in the country and narrow it down to even a pool of a few dozen. Good luck.

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Olympics – Matchday 3: What We Learned – New Zealand 3:1 Cameroon

Sometimes a smile can tell the whole story. As the final whistle blew, and New Zealand finally had a win at a major competition, the smiles told the story. After 14 straight games without a victory over more than two decades, all the hard work behind the scenes had finally paid off. Granted, it was a 3-1 victory over Cameroon that they rightfully expected to have, but as much as we – and I’m as guilty as anyone – want to talk about off-the-ball and off-the-field incidents, sometimes something as simple as a smile is all you need to see, no matter what happens to New Zealand against the United States on Friday.

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Olympics – Matchday 2: What We Learned – New Zealand 0:1 Brazil

Again, New Zealand huffed and puffed, but again they couldn’t knock the door down to get a result against a world power at a major competition. It was pretty cruel on poor New Zealand, too, who marginalized Marta and frustrated Brazil, only to give up a goal five minutes from the end that was really unlucky and unnecessary from a New Zealand perspective. On the plus side, a win – particularly a lopsided one – over Cameroon should still see them get through to the quarterfinals, and at that point, who knows?

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