As the Football Ferns approach their second match against the United States of America national women’s side today, the USA-born Riley says she remains as proud as ever to be sporting the silver fern.
“It’s always strange playing against your home and your friends – mostly it’s weird playing against your friends,” Riley says of New Zealand’s encounters against the USA.
“It’s been a good rivalry we’ve had with them. It feels like we have played them a lot. It’s always exciting to play in the States. The fans are so awesome here, obviously they are not cheering for us, but it’s really cool to see the support for the game and the support for the US team is incredible. You want to see that everywhere.”
Riley says she had to make a decision about where her national loyalties lay fairly early on.
“I was playing club and I wasn’t a top recruit and I never got pulled into any regional teams. My senior year of high school I had an opportunity to play for New Zealand – I’ve been a citizen since I was born,” she says.
“I just jumped at it, and that was 2006. The next year, I was already turning 20 I think, so I wouldn’t have been able to play another U-20 (World Cup) and the next year was the World Cup in China, so I just had to go for it.”
The 25-year-old as she continues to experience success earning a league championship in her first year with Swedish club LdB FC Malmo.
And achieving objectives with the Football Ferns, who recently knocked over World-heavyweight sides Brazil and China at the Valais Cup in Switzerland, means she has no regrets about the path she has chosen.
“This is a really exciting time for us. Every time we’re together we improve, and coming off good results against Japan, Australia and obviously beating Brazil and China in Switzerland, it’s just been a huge growth period for us and we’re looking to continue that,” she says of the national side’s journey to their best-ever overall ranking.
“We’re just looking to get better and better and finish out 2013 on a high and then looking to really build again for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.”
The Football Ferns lost the opening match against USA 4-1 and are hoping to make a comeback in today’s encounter – but Riley admits victory isn’t what the side is focusing on.
“Obviously you want to win. Who plays the games and doesn’t want to win? But at this time we are building,” she says.
“When you play well, the results come and you can feel good about your performance. It’s always hard to break down the US – it’s hard to play under their high pressure.
“Brazil was playing man-marking and China plays a completely different style so being able to analyse your opponent, play your game while still being tactically smart and being prepared for everything that a team can throw at you when you go into a World Cup when you play styles from all over the World.”
The Football Ferns face the USA National Women’s team today, 31 October, with kick-off at 12.30pm (NZT).