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Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger Take New York with Gotham FC

Gotham FC and Thirty Five Ventures have entered a partnership, and to mark the occasion, Boardroom sat down with the club’s new stars: Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger.

NJ/NY Gotham FC underwent a changing of the guard last year. Hometown hero Carli Lloyd hung up her cleats in the fall, though she couldn’t stay away for too long, rejoining Gotham as a minority owner last week. Even so, the club needed to establish a new era on-pitch.

In December, Gotham traded for Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and defender Ali Krieger. Another trade brought along midfielder Kristie Mewis days later, and in January, Gotham re-signed forwards Midge Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu.

Harris and Krieger are giants of the game. The two-time World Cup champions were fiercely involved in the U.S. women’s national team’s recently settled fight for equal pay, and Harris had been with the Pride since their 2016 debut NWSL campaign, with Krieger joining for the next season.

Their most important titles come away from soccer, though. Married since December 2019, Harris and Krieger became first-time mothers to daughter Sloane in February 2021. In the months afterward, it became apparent that their growing family needed to leave Orlando to fully embrace the next chapter.

“If you know anything about Ali and I, we love to compete,” Harris told Boardroom while visiting the New York office with Krieger last month. “At one point, we both were like, ‘We need to make a change.’ And especially having a child — a biracial family and a queer family — there was a lot of moving parts to what we thought was best for the family. We definitely kept that in the forefront, and that was our first priority as a family: Where do we feel safe?”

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Harris and Krieger still feel safe on the pitch. Poetically, Gotham FC opened their 2022 NWSL season in Orlando and defeated the Pride, 3-0. Yet another clean sheet for Harris, and Krieger was named Player of the Match for 12 clearances.

Below, Harris and Krieger discussed how they’ve already felt refreshed by New York City as well as their hopes for the rest of their playing careers and beyond.

Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

BOARDROOM: How has New York city re-energized you?

Ali Krieger: It’s exactly that. New York City has re-energized us tremendously. I know as individuals and then as a couple and then obviously as a family, we feel like, here, everything is at your fingertips. And it’s electrifying. Right when you get into the city, there’s just so much opportunity, and you feel that there’s so many different walks of life. There’s so many little neighborhoods around the city that you can kind of connect with that are so attractive depending on the type of mood you’re in or what you want to do.

And so, I think we feel like life is really achievable here. We feel refreshed, and we feel excited about learning something new every day. And it is a bit scary at times. … It’s definitely new and it kind of makes you feel a little uncomfortable at times, but that’s when you grow the most.

How does the phrase “New York State of Mind” most authentically apply to each of you?

Ashlyn Harris: When I think of that phrase and I think of New York, I just feel I’m at the center of the universe. Like, it’s such an electrifying, magnetic, inspiring place to be. It’s this sense of hustle, hustle, hustle, and constantly people are competing to get to where they want to go. It’s literally living this American dream. I love the fact that I’m being tested in every aspect of my life, and I’m being challenged, because everyone’s so hungry here.

People want to be successful, and they wanna put the work in, and that’s kind of the way I’ve been ticking my whole life. So, coming from a small town where there’s only a few of us who operate in that mindset [and now] being in this New York state of mind, everyone’s hungry to make it. It’s just such a unique place to put yourself because only the strongest survive. I’m loving every moment of it, but it’s exhausting, which is great.

Krieger: Just like we act on the field — we’re so competitive in that nature, and just our mentality is so strong — I feel I like it matches the city perfectly. It kind of goes hand-in-hand now. So, if you think about the soccer side of things and then you think about our life, it has to match that fast pace, really competitive fire that you need to survive in the city, but also survive in the sport that we love to play. I think it’s just a really perfect match for us.

How are off-field opportunities different for you here than in Orlando?

Krieger: [Laughs] We never stop working. I don’t think we’ve slept since we drove into our driveway in New Jersey.

Harris: We don’t take a moment off, and we love it.

Krieger: It’s actually so important for us to have an impact on this community, this city, our team and the NWSL. Use our platform for issues that we believe in and that we want to fight for. And so every single day is an opportunity for us to use our voice and work and fight the good fight. We really enjoy it. I love staying busy. But yeah, I don’t think we’ve slept since we got here. But that’s the point. We really want to make a huge impact, and we want to share all these opportunities that we can get our hands on and create really amazing things for the future after one day we hang up our boots. This is a perfect city to be involved in.

You’ve been heavily involved in the fight for equal pay with the U.S. women’s national team. How does your passion for collective equality extend to how you approach individual brand partnerships?

Harris: Ali and I are really particular in vetting people we decide to work with. We don’t just do one-off things or are trying to seek money. The gains are different for us now. It’s: are we gonna lift each other? Do we really view a partnership in terms of supporting what the brand is trying to do in our community? How big [is] the social impact they’re making at large? These things matter to Ali and I. Nothing is a very transactional feel. We don’t want that. We’re on a mission to make this world better, especially now being new moms. That hits totally differently than it used to. We are really thoughtful, and we vet brands, and we want to make sure that people don’t do the talking for us.

If we want to partner with anyone, we sit down, ask the questions and figure out if it’s a good fit because we want to make it a long-term partnership. We want to impact our mission and our community — equal pay and our LGBTQ community, all of these things matter, and we need to make sure that we’re doing the right things. And by doing that, [it’s] really continuing to educate ourselves clearly but also pushing brands to invest in women. Visibility for queer moms like ourselves, visibility is really, really important. We want to stamp who we are as people, a couple and a partnership and moms in what we do every single day.

In your Allure cover story, Ali, you said you can see a post-playing life in broadcast television. What about that possibility excites you?

Krieger: I love talking about sports, and then more importantly, I obviously know more about soccer. But I love talking about it. We don’t really talk that much at home because we try to get home from training and have a life and just leave soccer on the training pitch. That gives me my chance to go and talk soccer with people who are also enjoying it and are passionate about that.

But I want to be a force in the men’s game. I feel like we do need more female voices in the men’s game because we just have a different perspective. I find it really interesting to hear other people’s views and opinions about the sport that we love. And so, I just enjoy talking soccer, coaching soccer, teaching soccer, playing soccer. It’s all the things. I feel like when you try to perfect something for over 30 years, I shouldn’t, you know, go and try to be a plumber or something. Not that I would be poor at it, but it would take some time to be the best that I would want to be. So talking soccer and getting in front of the camera is something that I feel like is super natural to me.

In the same story, Ashlyn, you said that you “will need something to fuel me to move on to the next thing” before you decide that you’re done with soccer. From where you sit now, what do you picture that next thing to be?

Harris: Wow. I get this question a lot now as my career is coming to an end. And I think what is always really important for me is [that] soccer is not who I am. It’s just a part of what I do every day. It is my job. I am an entertainer. But I think my true gift in life is to see people — to genuinely show up and see people and meet them where they’re at and move people to get to where they want to go. I want to able to use that gift as much as I can. So wherever that takes me, whether that’s on camera, whether that’s motivational speaking, whether I decide to build a non-profit. I have a lot of ideas in my head, but I am 100% a giver.

There’s a lot of responsibility building a platform and being a role model, and I want to take that as far as I can go, and I want to be a voice for people who are still looking to find their own. I want continue to be a huge activist in the LGBTQ community and keep fighting for equal rights for people who look like me and my wife, who are being honestly targeted at this point with a lot of new laws that are being put in place all over the U.S.

I want to keep fighting for trans children and creating a safe space for them. I’m kind of all over the map, but all I know is I truly see people, and I want to help in any way I can. So, it’s just kind of figuring out the right avenue. But there’s just so many endless possibilities I want to dive into. You know, I love fashion.

You said you bought a coat for the first time for the trip from Florida to New York. In the months since being here, how has New York City influenced your style?

Harris: Okay, so, I really struggled when I first got here in January. Holy smokes. It is so cold. I was in my first snow squall. There was a huge adjustment period for me, but in terms of style, this is the best place to be. What I love so much is I can wake up, and whatever my vibe and mood is for the day, it reflects in what I wear. This place is so inspiring all the time, and I’m drawing inspiration from so much stuff. I can walk around the streets and see the artwork or the graffiti — literally furniture, for some reason, just aesthetic. How things are set. I just feel good.

I feel electrified. It’s just the sense of energy I can’t explain, even though the weather sucks. It’s hard to look bad here because I’m constantly being inspired by the people and the culture around me. Everywhere I walk, I’m just taking mental notes and pictures. The way my brain works in terms of like my artistic vibe, I’m in the right spot. It’s totally different than my hometown in Orlando, and I love the challenge of it. I love self-expression and that’s so big here, and it feels good. I finally feel like I fit in.

How do you want to redefine the “soccer mom” cliche?

Krieger: I feel like being a soccer mom is so badass because literally we’re on fumes, but you find some way to just show up and do the most. Even though we’re so exhausted and we’re tired from being a mom and taking care of Sloane … and then have to go to work and be so focused on being the best at your job in your position and for the team, you gotta give everything. You just find a way to show up. You find a way to turn it on and push the tiredness to the side, and you just figure it out. Whenever things happen now, I’m just like, Oh, whatever, we’ll figure it out. It’ll be fine.

Ultimately, Sloane is our priority and then everything else comes second. But I do feel like being a soccer mom is so badass, especially when you’re actually still playing because you can do both. You can give 100% to your craft, and you can also give 100% to being a mom and being there helping your child grow into a successful human.

Harris: You nailed it. I mean, honestly. It’s crazy how you can train the mind. That, for me, I thought I hit my threshold, you know? And then it’s crazy when I come home and I find more energy within to just be dancing with Sloane in the kitchen and singing. It’s incredible how you can push the limit. Your mind, your body. Our job is physically exhausting. You’re spot on. To be able to show up for our child every single day at 100% of who we are is such a [testament] to our character and our willingness to just be there and be present and not have any excuses.

You both have served in providing such important representation for the LGBTQ community and for women as a whole throughout your careers. But as you’ve said, your family comes first. So now, what do you want represent most for your daughter?

Harris: I want Sloane to see how hard her moms work to create a space where we can all be seen as equals. Where she’s proud of how hard we fought in our community to show up for each other and create this safe environment where certain people or groups of people aren’t left behind. I know Ali and I work a lot, and our work is meaningful. It allows us to be the best versions of ourselves to support her. I just hope that she sees one day that her moms helped do this, and her moms were a part of that. I hope that provides a strength inside her that she could truly be anyone she wants.

And it’s gonna take some work to get there. Ali and I, every night when we’re exhausted and we know we have a lot of boxes to tick the next day, we’re literally trying to create a better world for our child. She deserves that.

But we also know the responsibility, and we need to guide our children to be good people. We can’t be absent in that. Trying to do it all sometimes is tough, but we know the importance of it. As females, we know the work will never end — whether it’s pay equity for women or the LGBTQ rights, it’s never gonna end. We’re up for the challenge because we’re never gonna stop.

Krieger: I think just “fight” in general. Fight to want more for ourselves, want more for our community, want more for each other, and then want more for her ultimately. To inspire her to want to continue that work and want to continue to provide more for herself and actually go out and get what she deserves. [It’s] allowing her to have these big dreams and set these incredible goals that she can understand she’s able to reach those goals. Ultimately, we want to fight for her but just women in general. I want her to know that we are fighting for women, and we’re fighting for equity and equality and equal pay. Just creating this path for her that’s a little bit easier than what we had.

Gotham FC has been fronted by Carli Lloyd for the last few years. What do you want your distinct marks to be on the club?

Krieger: Obviously, following in her footsteps is extremely difficult because she’s been such a pioneer in our sport. An icon for so long. And so, we obviously want to make her proud. But as individuals here, we just want to bring a type of leadership that’s demanding but supportive, and we want to give the fans everything we can at the last bit of our career.

We understand that every day matters and every day is an opportunity to not only improve but to just give everything. That is what I personally want to leave on this club: give everything in order to win everything. That’s something that we both really want. We want to win an NWSL championship.

Harris: No one ever can compete with what Carli has done on the field. I mean, she is literally a walking legend. She has checked every box in her career, and it’s incredible to have a player accomplish so much and be from here and play for our team here. I think the difference between her and I is how much can I accomplish outside of the field? How can I impact my people and my community? That’s what I wanna bring here to New York is, you know, I’ll never be able to follow in Carli’s footsteps. It’s impossible. Her career is phenomenal. But how can I show up for this city and this community and create an environment where people come to our games and feel seen and heard and safe?

I love how all of us can tick so different, even though we’re all entertainers. I’m not gonna sit here and say, “Oh, I don’t wanna win.” Of course, I always wanna win. I’ve played at this level for 14 years because I love to win. But also, all the other stuff matters to me as well. I want to put just as much energy into my community as I do my soccer. That’s what I hope I can deliver to New York is to constantly be here and be available. I hope that it invites more people to come and see what we do and be a part of our story.

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