Nadine Angerer wins 2013 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, beating out Abby Wambach, Marta

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Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was named the 2013 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year on Monday just hours after announcing she had signed with Portland Thorns FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. She beat out the United States’ Abby Wambach – the 2012 winner – and Brazil’s Marta, who won the award five straight times from 2006-2010.

Among the 147 national team coaches, 146 captains and 88 media members, Angerer grabbed 612 points, while Wambach claimed 539 points and Marta earned 439 points. All the votes can be found here.

Angerer’s shining moments came at Euro 2013, most notably the final, where she saved two penalty kicks to preserve Germany’s 1-0 victory over Norway, clinching the title for Germany. Her performance at Euro 2013 was incredible. Saving two penalty kicks in a major tournament final? Legendary stuff.

But they were moments of brilliance in a full year – a full year in which the likes of Goeßling, Schelin and Wambach, among many others, stood out through most of the calendar.
I considered voting for Angerer at times, but with no disrespect to her, one point reverberated in my head: Is the No. 1 player in the world right now a 35-year-old goalkeeper? Surely not. Not with all the talent in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

I wrote in October, before being granted the U.S. media vote, that league play needed to be considered more when voting for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. Thus, I factored league play heavily in my vote:

1) Lena Goeßling (Germany/VfL Wolfsburg) – Named to the all-tournament team for Euro 2013, Goeßling was a lynchpin in Germany’s midfield but also excelled at the club level. She helped lead VfL Wolfsburg to a historic treble, completing it emphatically with a 1-0 win over Lyon team in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final, preventing the French side from claiming an unprecedented third straight title. Goeßling earned player of the match. She tallied four goals in league play last season and one in UEFA Champions League, but Goeßling’s best assets come in her playmaking ability and control of the midfield, like she did with Nadine Keßler in the final against Lyon.

2) Lotta Schelin (Sweden/Lyon) – Plain and simple, Schelin just scores. She does it for Sweden and she does it for Lyon. And while the argument that there are a lot of cupcake games in Feminine Division 1 is valid, Schelin scored in big games that counted last season. She had 24 goals in the 2012-13 season, scoring in big games against the rest of the top of the table: PSG, Juvisy and Montpellier. Schelin tallied in both legs of the Champions League quarterfinal against LdB Malmö and four goals in the two-leg semifinal against Juvisy. She was top scorer at Euro 2013 with five goals. The only thing that she can’t seem to do is ever make the final three for FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, which is shocking.

3) Abby Wambach (USA/Western New York Flash) – Obviously Wambach broke the international goal scoring record and enters 2014 with 163 goals, a remarkable number. She did that in style, scoring four goals against South Korea to jump to 160, but that speaks more to a total body of work over her career. The reality is that the U.S. didn’t play a game that wasn’t a friendly (yes, even the Algarve Cup) in 2013. But Wambach was still a force with the red, white and blue and, even more impressively, with the Western New York Flash. At age 33, many have been expecting a dip in form from Wambach. But she registered 11 goals and eight assists in the inaugural NWSL season and looked as good as ever, carrying her side into the final, where the Flash lost to Portland.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.