It was a love born on the soccer field.
National Women’s Soccer League stars Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris are engaged, the couple confirms to PEOPLE.
The romance between the athletes began nearly a decade ago when the two met while playing for the U.S. National Team.
“We became really close friends, and we just hung out, we clicked, and we had so much in common,” Harris, 33, says of when the two first met in 2010. “We always sat next to each other on the bus and on flights, and we kind of just talked about our dreams and our hopes and what we wanted to do one day when we grew up. Because at the time, we were kids.”
“The rest has kind of been history,” she continues. “Here we are nine years later, and we’re going to be getting married this year.”
For Krieger, 34, it was Harris’ “creativity and ambition” that first drew her in.
“I find that so attractive, and the way that she makes me a better person. I think that I’m very quiet and reserved,” she says. “Since being with Ash, I really feel like I’ve blossomed into the woman that I want to be, and she’s helped me become the woman I am.”
And while Harris says she was attracted to Krieger’s independence and assertiveness, she couldn’t help but melt when looking into her eyes.
“It was her big, beautiful brown eyes,” she says. “She has these unbelievable tiger eyes. I just felt like every time she was talking, I wasn’t even paying attention to what she was saying.”
The couple both play for the Orlando Pride — Krieger is a defender, while Harris is a goalkeeper — and many of their fans have long picked up on their chemistry together, though the duo has not publicly confirmed they were in a relationship until now.
But whether they confirmed the romance or not, their fans didn’t wait to come up with a nickname for the couple, calling them “Krashlyn.”
Both Krieger and Harris say they didn’t want to publically address their relationship over the years because they didn’t want to create a distraction for their teammates and the franchise.
“We wanted to be professional and make sure that we showed up every day and did our job and it wasn’t just because we were together, it was because we love what we do, and we’re really good at what we do,” Krieger says. “And that was most important for us.”
Read more about the happy couple in the latest issue of PEOPLE, out now.
But now, they say, they feel more comfortable sharing their love with the world.
“We became more and more confident within and ourselves and then clearly within our relationship,” says Harris. “We were like, now is the right time … and I feel like it’s a massive weight off of my shoulders. Finally, after all these years, I just feel like I don’t have to hide anything or feel like I’m not living up to the community I’m in.”
Harris popped the question as the two had a picnic by the rocks on Clearwater Beach on September 15, just a few days after they finished playing their final game of the season. As they took a selfie together of the sunset, Harris held up the ring to Krieger’s surprise.
“It was a really good time because I felt really on the same page with her, and really excited about our future and talking about our future plans with kids, and family, and things like that,” Krieger says. “It just was a really good time. I was really surprised because it just seemed like another weekend getaway for us. I wasn’t really thinking about it at all!”
Harris adds: “It was just us and this beautiful scenery, and I was just like … she was making me laugh, she wanted me to take pictures, and here I am. This is what I’m gonna be doing the rest of my life. It just all froze and I was like, ‘this is it.’ “
Harris has been training for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer, and the two are aiming for an end of the year wedding ceremony in Florida.