Under Ali Krieger's uniform
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It's important to show your vulnerabilities. I'm proud of my body, I'm proud of my sport, I'm proud of being a female athlete. Being naked is just another aspect of that. It's real. It's raw. It's honest.
I have to win, even if I'm just playing pingpong. If I lose, I get so pissed off and need a second. But I think it's that way with a lot of people at this level -- we are all super competitive.
I just acted like there was nobody in the entire stadium. People ask me, "What were you thinking during that game-winning penalty kick in the 2011 World Cup?" I was actually thinking absolutely nothing. I just walked up there and was so inspired by my teammates who rocked all their PKs; they just killed it. I figured I might as well do the same, or they might have my neck.
Krieger means "warrior" in German. I think that name fits perfectly because I've overcome a lot of adversity throughout my career. I've had three major injuries, I had a pulmonary embolism when I was 21 years old. My knee injury right before the Olympics, too. Just trying to overcome that and being a warrior through all those experiences. I really feel like I'm this powerful, yet calm and consistent type of player.
I consider Germany my second home. The tattoo on the side of my body is from the first German book I ever read, "The Little Prince." Translated, it says, "One can see good with the heart, because what is essential is invisible to the eye." It represents my time there [with FFC Frankfurt, 2007-12]. It stuck with me and inspired me.
I love to do lunges because I don't want my butt to start sagging. I say that to my trainer all the time; he thinks I'm nuts.
If I could get a new pair of feet after I'm done playing, that would be great. I hate my feet. I wear my shoes really tight, so sometimes I have calluses or blisters or whatever, it's just not attractive. But they are my tools to play, and I need to keep them healthy; I need them at their best.
Even just thinking about it now gets me pretty upset. I was doing so well during the World Cup in 2011 and I was so pumped about the Olympics, and then I had my knee injury. To have those dreams crushed by some girl who makes one bad tackle was pretty upsetting. I had to just cheer everyone on at the Olympics instead of being able to help the team. Everything else was out of my control.
I'm a quick healer. That injury taught me to persevere. I'm proud that I'm back at 110 percent three years later and playing again at the highest level, because I never thought that I could do that. I feel like I'm a better player now than even when I was at the World Cup.
I once thought I would never be able to kick a ball again. In college I broke my leg playing against our boys club team two days before the NCAA tournament. He kind of just like took me out, and I fell down and broke my leg. It was a spiral fracture, so I got surgery. Then I was flying over Christmas break, and I had blood clots in my leg and in my lungs. I didn't know at the time, but I wasn't feeling right. I couldn't even go to the bathroom without feeling out of breath. When I went to the doctor they told me it was a good thing I came in, because if I would have gone to sleep that night, I probably would never have woken up. I was 21 years old and just thinking, "This wasn't even my fault." I had no idea if I was even going to live through this.
You never know when it's going to be your last time to step onto the field.Ali Krieger
You never know when it's going to be your last time to step onto the field. Injuries give you perspective. They teach you to cherish the moments that I might have taken for granted before. Especially putting on the U.S. national team jersey again.
It's just, this is me! I always joke to my dad and thank him for giving me this little boy body. When I was 6 or 7, my gymnastics coach looked at my quads and told the other coach to come over and see my quads. They were big then and still are. But I've kind of embraced it through the years.
Everyone makes fun of my calves. They are so big. I don't really even like them, I don't really want them as big as they are, but I have no choice. In college, girls would come up to me: "I want your calves." It just makes me laugh. I guess people pay a lot of money to have the types of bodies athletes have.
My thighs too; I feel like I have big thighs. My brother was always like, "Yeah, I want big thighs! Big thighs are awesome!" And I'm like, "Yeah, for a man!" But I've trained since I was 6 years old to play soccer, and this is just the type of body I have. I'm proud of my thighs because they've gotten me to where I am today and give me the power that I have to play my best.
I think my confidence came when I turned 30. I don't know, something about turning 30 has been unbelievable. I just feel a sense of freedom. My 20s were really tough, just traveling and living in different countries and doing all these things, and now I feel like I know what I want and know really what my goals and dreams are and what I want from my life.
I don't want soccer to be my life forever. I want to have another job, whether that be in the broadcast or commentating world or event planning, anything. I've been passionate about football for so long, I hope I can be just as passionate about something else and be good at it.
I want to have a big family. That's something I've always dreamed of. We have a lot of mothers on our team, like four or five. It's inspiring to see and just proves that you have to have the patience and the skill to balance that lifestyle, which I'm willing to do.
This is an online exclusive story from ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue 2015. Subscribe today!