Sabrina D’Angelo is at the top of the mountain once again. The 25 year old goalkeeper from Welland, Ontario was instrumental in helping the North Carolina Courage capture their first ever treble with the the Supporters Shield, the NWSL Title, and the International Champions Cup.
Soccer 360’s Sean Maslin spoke with Sabrina after the season to talk about her club’s success this season, the rigors of the goalkeeping position, and her goals and ambitions with the Canadian National Team.
Sean Maslin: How good does it feel to be called a two-time NWSL Champion?
Sabrina D’ Angelo: It is definitely pretty special especially this year given the year that we had as a team. Winning the Shield, then obviously the ICC, and then the Championship and kind of breaking that curse I guess you could say made it a real special year, to be honest. I guess you could say we have really developed as players from our first Championship [in 2016] to this Championship and to see the development of the players over the three years and to see the type of soccer that we put out there was really special.
SM: This season the Courage had an incredible run through the NWSL, winning three titles and losing just once. What moments stick out to you when you look back upon the season?
SD:I think us winning the Shield so early and having a little bit of breathing room but still striving to get better was cool to see. Even though we had secured the top spot we still had people trying to push their performances. Obviously with the semifinals and the finals and us having to move [our semifinal home] match to Portland after earning home-field due to the weather was something that we won’t forget obviously. It’s sad that we could not put on a show for the fans but just being in Portland and getting that championship amongst all those fans in the finals was great and I thought we dominated most of the game. But yeah for me the biggest moment that stuck out was the finals and playing in front of all those fans.
SM: Your side was thrown a bit of a wrench during the playoffs when your home match was moved to Portland. What was that experience like playing a home match so far away while North Carolina community was going through such a serious weather event?
SD: So I actually got that game because Kate [Rowand] was coming back from a concussion injury. We are good on the road and we knew that we were going to get the job done. Chicago [Red Stars] had our number for the first little part of the game but just get past that and to be on the field with the team and to help them get to the finals was really special. In the end I think we deserved the win.
SM: You have had a chance to work with Paul Riley for pretty much your entire professional career. In your eyes, what makes him such a successful coach?
SD: I think just the culture that he created within the club within our team. Obviously it takes the players buying in as well but he helped nurture our culture and create an idea of soccer that we wanted to play. What the players gave him is kind of what brought about our formation. I think him pushing us everyday and getting us to trust in the process not necessarily worrying about the Championship in the end but just worrying about the game at hand I think that is huge and he has definitely pushed us over the years. We used to be the underdogs and now he is applying a little more pressure on us to get the job done in games because he knows we can handle it. I definitely think the culture and the identity in the team is massive.
SM: He is known for being a bit of a talker. Do you have a favorite quote or saying of his?
SD: I think just his trust in the process is my main thing.
SM: CONCACAF Qualification is going on right now. Do you have any predictions for how you think Canada will do in the tournament?
SD: I definitely think that we will qualify and lift that trophy.
SM: Does your training and preparation change at all in the offseason knowing that it is a ‘World Cup’ year and that you are in the running for a spot in the tournament?
SD: No I don’t think so. Obviously I am not at qualifying so my offseason starts a little bit quicker and it gives me a couple of weeks and to relax and not do anything pertaining to soccer and to gear up again at the end of October/November/December so I don’t know if it necessarily changes. Once we get into season with club it is really about taking it game-by-game and knowing that we will be getting pulled in and out of camps with the National Team.
SM:What would playing in a World Cup mean for you both personally and professionally?
SD: I think it is just a dream of mine and obviously in the bigger picture the goal is to win the World Cup. I think we have a really special group in this Canadian team and you have obviously seen them evolve over the years. I wasn’t in that many camps this year but I was in the last two and seeing how much they have evolved in just these past year with the coach [Kenneth Heiner Moller, who has hired in January 2018] it is kind of cool to see. So its definitely a dream and it would be amazing.
SM: What is the toughest part about being a goalkeeper?
SD: Personally for me it is sometimes the pressure that I put on myself just because I do not want to let the people down that are in front of me. So it is just that pressure to not be perfect because nobody is perfect on the field but to just try and do my best for them.
SM: What are some coping mechanisms and strategies that you have on the pitch to handle adversity or when things don’t go the way you want them to?
SD: For me it is just kind of a ‘next task’ mindset that I cannot dwell on the mistake that was made and I can think about it later when the game is done. My team still needs me so I try and move on from that mistake and realizing that there are people in front of you that need your help. I am internal, obviously worrying about something that service the team in front of me. So I think, in my head, it is just about how can I service the team.
SM: Did you have a favorite goalkeeper growing up and how did their style influence yours?
SD: From Manchester United I always really liked [Edwin] van der Saar. Obviously now I really like Ederson
SM: If you could go back in time and give yourself right before you became a pro one piece of advice what would it be?
SD:Probably not to be too hard on myself and not get so frustrated with my mistakes and realize that they are learning experiences.