When Portland Thorns FC host Seattle Reign FC Saturday (4:00pm PT, TICKETS), a wealth of soccer talent will take the field at Providence Park. While much attention has been paid to the attacking play of both teams, two of the world’s best goalkeepers will be doing their best to stifle any offensive threat.
Portland’s Nadine Angerer and Seattle’s Hope Solo are two of the most experienced players at international level, having amassed over 280 appearances combined for Germany and the United States, respectively. Between the two goalkeepers are 18 international tournament titles, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup and Olympic Games. Individual accolades are abundant, highlighted by Angerer’s 2013 FIFA World Player of the Year award.
While stalwarts of their respective national teams, Angerer and Solo are also making their marks in the National Women’s Soccer League. Solo is in her second year with the Reign and will face Portland for the third time. Angerer is a relative newcomer to the NWSL and will be opposite Solo for the first time at club level, which adds to the spectacle.
“For the fans, first of all, it’s exciting to have such world-class players on the field in one night,” Thorns FC head coach Paul Riley said. “At each end of the field you do have the two best goalkeepers in the world, unquestionably.”
Angerer and Solo currently rank at the top of several goalkeeping categories. They have the two best goals-against averages of goalkeepers that have played four or more games. Between them Solo and Angerer have made 23 saves and have faced 73 shots, conceding only five goals in nine matches.
“You know in a game like this, with both teams’ attacking abilities, there’s going to be some amazing shots and amazing attacking sequences and you know the keepers are going to have to come up big,” Thorns defender Rachel Van Hollebeke said. As someone who’s seen both shot-stoppers up close due to club and USWNT commitments, Van Hollebeke has a unique perspective on what both Angerer and Solo can bring to the pitch.
“This is the type of game all of us live for, but probably especially the keepers because they really have that chance to make the difference in the game,” Van Hollebeke added. “Nadine has already done that several times for us. She’s had some huge saves.”
While Angerer and Solo may not challenge each other face-to-face, the quality each brings to the field will have a significant impact on Saturday’s result. Reputation can potentially do some of a goalkeeper’s work for them when a chance comes an attacker’s way.
“Just like Nadine and just like Hope, when forwards get through on them, [attackers] think a bit too much,” Riley pointed out. “[Attackers] think ‘Oh God, it’s Hope Solo’ or ‘Oh God, it’s Nadine Angerer.’ As much as everyone thinks this is going to be a high scoring game, because of two offensive teams, I’m not so sure, with the goalkeepers we’ve got,” Riley remarked.
The goalkeepers are just two of a plethora of world-class talent taking the field with several FIFA Women’s World Cup winners and Olympic medalists taking positions all over the pitch.
“These players just make [the NWSL] so much better and better for the fans,” Riley said. “I think the fans are excited and I think every soccer fan and everyone that follows women’s soccer are excited for the game this weekend.”
With Thorns FC and Seattle Reign FC setting the pace at the start of the regular-season, it could come down to the goalkeepers to keep their side as the only unbeaten club in the NWSL. No one more suited for the challenge than Angerer and Solo.