If you were to pass Nadine Angerer on Hawthorne Boulevard, you might assume she's another laid-back Portlander, out for a stroll in pegged sweat pants and fedora.
Unless you're a fan of the Portland Thorns.
Angerer—named by FIFA as the best female soccer player in the world for 2013—arrived in Portland in January to play goalkeeper for the Thorns.
Angerer, 35, is the first goalkeeper to win FIFA's female Ballon d'Or—an honor that comes on top of her helping Germany win two Women's World Cups and five European championships.
Angerer joined a Thorns team that won the National Women's Soccer League title last year and boasts a fan base more than twice as large as any other in the league. This year, the Thorns (5-4-2) have slipped to fifth in the standings, in part because star forward Alex Morgan has missed most of the season with an ankle injury.
Portland ended a three-game losing streak June 15 with a 2-0 victory over the Washington Spirit at Providence Park. Michelle Betos filled in for Angerer, who was away competing on the German national team.
It was a better result than the previous week, when the Western New York Flash handed the host Thorns their worst loss ever, 5-0, after Angerer was ejected in the 27th minute, drawing a red card on a controversial play in the box. Down 1-0 at the time, Portland played the rest of the June 7 game down a player and overmatched, spoiling Morgan's return to action.
Angerer sat down with WW to talk (modestly and in a charming German accent) about soccer, friendships and her love of all things Portland.
WW: It's rare for a goalie to be given a red card. What happened?
Nadine Angerer: It was a short pass back from my defender. I tried to rescue the situation. I didn't touch my opponent [Samantha Kerr], but she tried to get an advantage and she dived. That's how soccer is. Referees are also just humans. They make mistakes.
How do you bounce back after a loss like that and a questionable red card?
I was really angry because I didn't touch her and I got a red card. Then after the game [June 7, the night of the naked bike ride], we stayed together as a team and had dinner. We were laughing because so many naked people were pushing their bikes. I love it. That's so open-minded, don't you think?
You've played all over Europe, in Australia. Is the fan experience different here?
The [Thorns] fans are the best fans I've ever played for. They're cheering us for 90 minutes or longer. We lost 5-0, and even after 90 minutes, they were still cheering us. We were sitting in the changing room afterward, and we felt bad for the spectators because they are standing 100 percent behind us and, of course, we want to give a good presentation back.
How is the style of play different here?
Everything in America is so fast, it's like I have to run, run, run. It's a lot of power, and that's amazing—the speed, the athletic side. I feel like it's a national game all the time because the athletic level is so high. But from the technical side, yeah, we have a different style in Europe. It's more passes, passes, passes.
Lesbians in Oregon love the Thorns, and you in particular. Is it similar in Germany?
No, actually, but it's nice to know. In Europe, people love soccer. I don't care what kind of people are coming, if they are lesbians or families or young people. Except Nazis. I don't like them.
How are you adjusting to Portland?
I love Portland. The city is so open-minded. For example, in New York they are more fancy. People here don't care about what you are wearing. They care more about what you are thinking.
What are some of your favorite places?
The east side. Hawthorne. Division Street. I found a lot of good Thai places, and even the club scene. I don't go all that often because I'm a professional soccer player. But it's quite alternative. It's not that fancy; more laid-back. I love the bridges in Portland. I like the Burnside—the one with the Oregon sign.
I take a lot of pictures. I walk a lot, just go through the city. For example, I park my car on Hawthorne and just walk. That's so cool because people recognize me and start to talk about soccer, and after one minute we start to talk about Portland. They say, "You should go see this, and have you been to the ocean, have you been hiking, and if you want to know what is a good Thai place, go here."
I was standing a few days ago in the street, and this man asked me if I had noticed a tree. And he said, "Can I please show you this tree?" So I said "OK." I went with him and he showed me this tree. He was talking about this tree for 15 minutes. I have no idea about trees, but he was happy to just talk about this tree. Definitely it's different.
Where do you spend time?
The Canteen, a little place I go after practice. They have very healthy food. They have fresh juices, lots of vegan food, very cool soups.
I don't care if there's meat or not in it.
Is it hard to date when you're so well-known?
I have a girlfriend here.
Is it hard to make friends when you move so often?
One of the advantages is you have a lot of teammates. The good thing is, we all come from everywhere else. We hang out together. Almost everyone makes a prepared dinner from different places.
What's your role on the Thorns? Do you assume the role of mother figure, as you did in Germany?
Yeah, absolutely. I'm 35 years old. I have a lot of experience, I've played so many games, and it's my responsibility to take care of the young players. But actually, I don't care how old people are. The important thing is to have good character, and to be open-minded.
Are you close with anyone on your team?
I spend a lot of time with them. Sinc [Christine Sinclair] and Huffee [Sarah Huffman]. But I like everybody. Seriously, we have such a good team spirit. I don't say that because it sounds good. We really have this good spirit here. We had two very poor games now. We know this, and are really embarrassed about it. But we are all very supportive of each other. And that's very good.
What are your plans after the season?
I would like to go to Hawaii for a week. But where I go afterward, I don't know. I want to play, and maybe I'll go to Australia, and then come back to the U.S., because the season fits together. But I don't want to go back to Europe because I've played there so many years now.
You're known for your hat collection. My favorite is your gray stocking cap. Will you buy a new hat while you're here?
Absolutely. I always buy a new one and send the old one to fans, or as a present to friends, to kids. They're so cute, asking, "Can I have your autograph?