Abby Wambach's bid for a second consecutive FIFA’s Women’s World Player of the Year award was denied Monday afternoon by a goalkeeper, Germany's Nadine Angerer, whose heroics during last summer's European championship tournament trumped Wambach's scoring for club and country.
It was a big day for Angerer, 35, whose signing by reigning National Women's Soccer League champion Portland Thorns was announced earlier. Thorns coach Paul Riley called her, "Exceptional in just about every category – shot saving, footwork, crosses, organization, knowledge and experience."
That package was on display at the UEFA Women's Euro in Sweden, where Germany won a sixth consecutive continental crown but was far from dominant, scoring only six goals in six games. But Angerer was beaten just once, and she capped the performance with two penalty kick saves in the 1-0 final victory over Norway. She was named the first UEFA Women's Player of the Year in September.
The balloting by 147 women's national team coaches, 146 captains and 88 journalists was close. Angerer tallied 612 points, Wambach had 539 and Brazilian forward Marta 493. U.S. manager Tom Sermanni made Angerer his top choice (five points), followed by Wambach (three) and Swedish defender Nilla Fischer (one). U.S. captain Christie Rampone chose her teammate over Angerer and Fischer.
Wambach's candidacy may have been undone by the exhibition-only nature of her international year. There isn't much at stake post-Olympics and pre-Women's World Cup qualifying. But her performance didn't slip. Wambach led the unbeaten U.S. in scoring with 10 goals and six assists and maintained her legendary durability, starting in 12 of the 16 friendlies on the schedule. Only Heather O' Reilly (13) was in Sermanni's first 11 more frequently.
In June, Wambach scored four times against South Korea to break Mia Hamm's international scoring record. Wambach, 33, also anchored the pro game's return to American soil with 11 goals for the NWSL runner-up Western New York Flash. She finished one off the regular season lead.
She was named the U.S. Soccer Federation's female athlete of the year for a record sixth time in November, surpassing Hamm, and would have equaled the icon's total of two FIFA awards with a few more points on Monday. For what it's worth, Wambach did beat Angerer once this year, scoring on the German keeper in an April friendly that ended in a 3-3 draw.