She had just returned to Penn State from her mother’s wedding, the maid of honor at the ceremony on Sanibel Island, Fla. Despite being on crutches, necessitated by surgery for a broken leg suffered two days before the start of the NCAA tournament, she celebrated with family, new and old.
But Krieger also strained to fill her lungs, an elite athlete powerless to accomplish the most fundamental function.
The problem refused to subside, so when she returned to campus, Krieger arranged for a check-up the next morning. The puzzling discomfort could wait overnight, she figured.
Her halting breathing pattern and irregular heart rate, however, alarmed her then-boyfriend, football player Brent Wise, a pre-med student. Krieger went to Mount Nittany Medical Center — a decision that might’ve saved her life.
“The doctors said if I had fallen asleep that night,” the 26-year-old defender recalled last week, “I most likely wouldn’t have woken up.”
Test results revealed blood clots in her lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism and a half-dozen small heart attacks. Without immediate treatment, such conditions result in death to about one-third of those afflicted. Barely 21 years old, one of American soccer’s most promising young players was in critical condition.
“I got a call at 2:45 in the morning from my ex-wife and she said you need to get to Penn State now,” said Ken Krieger, her father. “I was out the door at 2:50.”
With a heavy dose of blood-thinners, Ali’s condition stabilized. She remained hospitalized for a week, then began a regimen of self-administered injections for six months. Worst of all: no physical activity.
But Krieger was soon back on the field for her senior season at Penn State, and her soccer odyssey will continue at the World Cup for the U.S. national team, which is seeking its first world title since 1999. The 16-nation tournament will begin June 26 in Germany, a venue that fuses her pro and international careers.
‘I was always around it’
Soccer was woven into Ali’s upbringing in the Montclair section of Prince William County. Her mother was a physical education teacher, and her father was a one-time professional soccer prospect who later became a highly successful coach at Hylton, Osbourn Park and Forest Park high schools before accepting a full-time position to run the 2,700-player Prince William Soccer Inc. youth club three years ago.
“We were constantly playing: in hallways, in the basement, out in the front yard, in the street,” said Ken, who also had assistant stints at American and George Mason and worked with the D.C. United and Washington Freedom youth teams.
For 12 years, Ali played club ball with the same core of eight players on the Prince William Sparklers, coached by her father. On the high school level, she spent one year at Hylton before transferring to the newly opened Forest Park.