PORTLAND, Ore. – As they applauded the fans at Providence Park for perhaps the final time, Thorns FC goalkeeper Nadine Angerer and defender Rachel Van Hollebeke must have thought back to all the times before it.
“That's what it's all about,” said Van Hollebeke after the game. “The connection with the fans. The connection with my teammates. Just feeling like we're so together on the field and feeling the whole stadium behind us. There were so many moments when I just could feel the crowd tonight and they're with us every step of the way.”
Before the opening kick, both Van Hollebeke and Angerer addressed the Providence Park crowd, thanking the fans for their support over the years.
“It's just been kind of a roller coaster of emotions for me,” Van Hollebeke said later. “I just felt like in the locker room today I was just a little more deliberate with everything. I thought about each step I was taking and I just tried to savor it. This has been such a special environment to put on this jersey and know all these people are behind us.”
Late in the match, Van Hollebeke sent a long cross to forward Alex Morgan at the back post. Morgan headed the ball across the face of goal to Jodie Taylor who finished it past the Spirit's keeper. Taylor's goal gave the Thorns a 3-2 lead.
“That's a ball I love to hit when I'm playing outside back and I just felt like it was cool to be able to have that in my last game,” Van Hollebeke said.
After the match, a hard-fought 3-3 draw with the Washington Spirit, the entire team made a celebratory lap around the stadium, thanking the fans for their support throughout the season. They ended their stadium tour behind the north end goal, climbing the steps up to the capo stand to give a special thanks to the Rose City Riveters.
“You feel their energy obviously the entire game but to be right up there with them and be in it and just shake their hands and give them hugs was just really cool,” Van Hollebeke said.
“We feel such a part of that community. We are so close and we really feel part of that and to go up there and be able to be with them in my last game was really special.”
“Of course, the fans are so loyal,” Angerer said after the game. “They are so incredible. We, the whole team, are just so thankful for these amazing fans.”
In the second half, Angerer stood in goal in the south end and marveled at the support from the capacity crowd at Providence Park.
“I had the perfect view of the stands,” Angerer said later. “I was just staring at them, at the whole stadium, so it was amazing. And I promise you I enjoyed every second.”
As both Angerer and Van Hollebeke move on to the next stages of their professional careers, they will remain Thorns faithful no matter where they are.
“I'll always be a Thorn,” Van Hollebeke said. “It's just a part of me.”