TUCSON, Ariz. — Nadine Angerer is the biggest international star to grace the professional game in the U.S. since Marta played for three years — albeit with three different teams — in WPS. Angerer, the current captain of the German national team, will play for defending NWSL champion Portland Thorns FC this season.
After winning the 2003 Women’s World Cup in the U.S. as a substitute, she backstopped the team to a repeat win in 2007 in China, incredibly not allowing a goal in six games. She also saved a penalty from Marta in the final. She saved two more penalties in the European final last summer as Germany narrowly defeated a surprising Norway, which was her fifth European title (second as a starter). Worldwide acclaim came to her when she won the FIFA 2013 Player of the Year Award, which American forward Abby Wambach won in 2012.
Angerer played most of her career in Germany’s Frauen-Bundesliga, except for one year with Sweden’s Djurgårdens IF in 2008. She spent this winter past with Brisbane Roar, who finished league runner-up in Australia’s W-League after losing 2-0 to Melbourne Victory in the Grand Final.
Angerer played 90 minutes on Friday night in Portland’s 10-0 exhibition defeat of the University of Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, Ariz. Against Arizona, who finished last season with a 9-7-4 record — their first winning record since 2005 — she faced just one shot (none on goal) and didn’t have to make a save, playing almost exclusively in a sweeper role.
But that sweeper role is exactly what new Thorns coach Paul Riley is looking for to complement the style of play he wants to pursue this season
The German captain did not stay in Tucson for Portland’s final game in Arizona on Sunday against Arizona State University — a 5-0 Portland win — as she was recalled to her national team for World Cup Qualifying on April 5 in Dublin and April 10 at home against Slovenia.
Germany looks a shoe-in to win the group and automatically qualify for Canada 2015, having won all five games and not conceded a goal while netting 40 times. The game is vital for Republic who will battle with Russia for second place. Four of the seven top second place finishers qualify for semifinals and final matches to decide one last spot for Canada.
But with her national team — one in which most players are on domestic clubs — in the home stretch of World Cup qualifying, why did Angerer decide to play outside of Europe for the first time?
“I played 15 years in Europe; I don’t want to say I was tired of it but I’m 35 now and I wanted to get some more experience, get to know other countries, other mentalities of soccer,” she said. “So the modus was really good to go first to Australia and then afterwards to America. I definitely made the right choice.”
Last summer’s completion of the Frauen-Bundesliga season right before the European championships in August was perfect timing, Angerer said. She started preseason with Brisbane Roar in September ahead of the league’s opening in November, and Brisbane’s Grand Final was Feb. 23, leaving time to come to Portland for the preseason in early March.
Her focus, however, remains on the 2015 World Cup, where Germany look to erase the massive disappointment of a quarterfinal exit on home soil in 2011.
“First of all, I have to say all the teams really improved last year,” she said. “Women’s soccer developed so much—the game got so much faster. In Germany we have a very young team and I think it’s the best team I have ever played for. They are so good, they are so young, they are so talented. Of course they are inexperienced but they are so motivated and [have] so much power and a good character. It is so much fun to play in the team. We look at other teams and how they improve, but first of all we want to improve in Germany and we want to play [an] important role next year in Canada.”
She felt that the U.S. performance in the Algarve Cup — where the Americans finished seventh with losses to Sweden and Denmark, a tie with Japan and a lone win over North Korea — was not a bellwether of terrible days ahead for the American side.
“The first eight teams in the world, they are so close, everybody can beat everybody — [it is] details that decide winning or losing,” Angerer said. “So the U.S. didn’t have a good tournament; in 2007 we finished in eighth place at the Algarve Cup and won the World Cup so it doesn’t matter.”
Angerer is the fourth German international to play in NWSL since its launch last season. Forward Conny Pohlers played with the Washington Spirit on loan, while the Chicago Red Stars imported two last season: forward Inka Grings and midfielder Sonja Fuss. Angerer foresees more Germans coming to play in the league, but not until after next summer’s World Cup.
“In general, it’s always a good opportunity as a soccer player to travel around the world, get to know other cultures and other things, everybody should do it. I’m very happy to be here.”