Canadian Sabrina D’Angelo, fresh off of training with the Canadian National team in Europe, has returned to her new home — a studio apartment in Sweden. She’s settling into a new country, with a new team, and has a plan and a set of goals to continue upping her soccer career.
New Team for 2019
While the NC Courage web site roster still shows her as one of two keepers for the 2018 NWSL champions. It’s not in the cards for her to be part of the NC Courage 2019 roster. As suspected earlier in January, D’Angelo has left the NWSL to play in Europe. She is just two weeks into practice with her new team, Vittsjö.
Wikipedia describes the team as the following: “Vittsjö Gymnastik och Idrottsklubb is a football club from Vittsjö, Sweden. They play in the highest level of women’s soccer leagues in Sweden, the Damallsvenskan.”
She doesn’t speak Swedish and admitted she speaks a total of four words.
“We’ll be ok,” D’Angelo said.
“Everyone speaks English here. I’ll figure it out,” she said with a laugh.
D’Angelo said it was a tough decision.
“It’s bittersweet because it’s always tough leaving such a great environment,” she said.
The 25-year-old goalkeeper said she would miss the girls and the North Carolina fans. D’Angelo said she had made so many connections, with so many of them being on the journey from the Western New York Flash to the North Carolina Courage. She loved getting to be part of seeing just how much the team grew, and the people that came in and enhanced the group.
“It’s sad to leave it, but I am excited for my new adventure here in Vittsjö,” she admitted.
“Just from the couple of weeks I’ve been with the team, it has a family vibe and I’ve been able to make connections with the coaches,” she said.
“For me, when I’m able to make connections with people and coaches, I perform better. So it’s kind of the same thing I was able to develop in North Carolina with the coaches. I think that’s really important for me.”
She said her new teammates have all been really nice and it has a similar feel to the Courage family so far.
Making it Happen
D’Angelo had been working with an agent originally and said they were having difficulty finding a team that needed a keeper. She said a lot of teams were already set at the goalkeeper position.
But like any other profession, who you know, and who you’ve made an impression on help. One of Canada’s national team assistant coaches also coaches in Sweden men’s professional club. and helped D’Angelo get her foot in the door.
“It was my first ever negotiations by myself, everything and they were really really accommodating,” she said.
Although away for a bit in Spain to train with the Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team, she says she’s settling in her new place in Sweden — the first time she’s lived by herself.
“I have a little, very European style studio apartment,” she beamed.
“It’s all good. I’m really enjoying it actually.”
During her time with the Courage, like most of the players, she roomed with a teammate. D’Angelo’s roommate was U.S. Women’s National Team defender, Abby Dahlkemper.
“I loved rooming with her and had a really good friendship and roommate flow,” she said.
“It worked well. I’ll miss her.”
Training with Fellow Goalkeepers
Training for goalkeepers is a little different than other positions on the pitch. You often have a specialized coach. You’re practicing and working out with a single teammate or two — who are your competition for playing time. D’Angelo, with her good-hearted nature, said she’s been lucky in her teams so far — especially with the Courage and her fellow goalkeeper, Katelyn (Kate) Rowland.
“I’ve been fortunate to be partnered with goalkeepers that are good people,” she said.
D’Angelo said she sees the other goalkeepers’ successes as helping her as well.
“I want you to do well because if you’re doing well, you’re going to make me do well,” she said.
“We were constantly positive. When I earned the starting position at the beginning of the year, [Rownland] was encouraging to me. When I got injured, my role changed and it was her turn to take the team. I would never be a person to talk badly or hope that she wouldn’t do well because I don’t think that does anybody any good.”
The Canadian keeper said it was part of her role coming out of injury to push Rowland but in a positive way.
“Then on gameday, I needed to support her,” D’Angelo said.
“It’s tough because everybody wants to play and you want to be on the field but at the end of the day, you have to trust the coaches and their decision. I was really lucky with Kate, and obviously [Assistant Coach] Nathan [Thackeray] facilitated that working environment for us.”
D’Angelo said her new goalkeeping partner in Sweden is giving her a good feeling as well.
“She’s really friendly, and I feel it’s going to be a good working relationship again,” she said.
“I don’t know if I’ve just been really lucky, cause it isn’t always easy.”
Big Appearances in 2018
After coming off of those 2018 regular season injuries, D’Angelo started in two pretty big games — the International Champions Cup (ICC) championship in July and then again in Portland in the Semifinal against the Chicago Red Stars. Both appearances were clean sheets for D’Angelo.
International Champions Cup (ICC)
“I think the ICC — I was grateful to get that game,” she said.
“Honestly, I had just started kicking the ball again maybe that week. It was a whirlwind.”
She said those caps, along with her other early-season starts taught her a lot about playing and mindset.
“What I learned throughout this season is that there’s game form — when you’re playing constantly, you’re in a type of form,” she said.
“When you aren’t and you go back into a game, you lack a little bit of flow. I felt a bit of that, and appreciate that now.”
She said the cap in the ICC final, she was trying to keep it in perspective — not trying to earn back the starting role, but to just win the game for the Courage.
2018 NWSL Semi-Final
For the semi-final against the Red Stars, she had a similar mindset — to get North Carolina to the final. She said she was just grateful again for the playing time and the trust in a big match. She said Coach Riley could have put Rowland back in for that semi-final, but she was thankful for the start and the faith Riley put in her after not starting for a while.
“It was just a confidence booster for sure,” D’Angelo said.
Pre and post game, D’Angelo is always all smiles in a genuine and light-hearted way. But on the field, like so many elite athletes, the personality transforms. On the pitch, D’Angelo is intense and often shouting out orders and instructions to her back line.
She said her presence developed over the years.
“I think when I was really young, they said to make sure you’re communicating,” she said.
“As I grew older, my personality started to show — my passion for the game and wanting to win. When I’m communicating, my objective is to help the players in front of me as much as I can. If I make their lives easier, then so be it, and obviously, it makes my life easier.”
The keeper said if she wasn’t communicating, she’s not servicing the team. As the goalkeeper, there’s a unique vantage point.
She said it’s also a way for her to keep her full game focus and stay involved.
“I’m focused. I’m already in the game,” she said.
World Traveler Via Soccer
Soccer has literally taken Sabrina D’Angelo all over the world — her native Canada, the Carolinas, Spain, and playing in Sweden now, among other places. She said soccer had given her life experiences and an opportunity to grow as a person.
“There’s been a ton of adversity in my career and each time, it’s a new learning [opportunity],” D’Angelo said.
“I’m grateful for every up and down. I think had I not been playing soccer, I’d be a totally different person — not necessarily a bad person, but I don’t know if I’d have the same outlook on life.”
D’Angelo said she started her professional career getting very homesick. She says now, she realizes leaving family is for a purpose.
“I know now that me leaving is me chasing my dreams, doing what I love. They understand that,” she said.
She also recognizes how much she has to be thankful for.
“Not many people get to say they play soccer for a living,” D’Angelo said.
“Not many people get to say they’ve been to an Olympics, are striving to play in a World Cup. We’re such a fraction of the world. I’m extremely grateful for it, and anytime I get to put on a soccer jersey, let alone the Canadian jersey, I’m honored,” she said.
She said she had been thinking about representing Canada recently.
“Sometimes you have to step back,” she said.
“I put on the jersey and go to training, and it’s nothing. But, oh my gosh. I dreamt of putting on this jersey and playing with Christine Sinclair — someone who’s, fingers crossed, going to get the most goals.”
She said you get to play with and against some of the best players in the world.
“I’m just extremely grateful that my parents and other people believed in me and helped me get this far and molded me into who I am,” she said.
Advice for the Next Generation
D’Angelo said it’s important for the next generation of soccer players to believe in themselves and their craft.
“I think confidence is a huge thing, especially in the female game — just that self-belief and knowing that you are a great player, and you’re on a specific team for a reason,” she said.
She said she still sometimes struggles in knowing she is where she is supposed to be, and realizing she’s good enough.
“If I had had the help I’ve had over the last couple of years, back when I was 17 or 18, I think I would have been extremely grateful,” she said.
“Believe in yourself. Value your craft and what you have.”
Upcoming Soccer for Sabrina
D’Angelo will continue to be busy on the pitch. She said she wasn’t sure when the opening day of Vittsjö’s season was yet, but said they have multiple months of preseason ahead of them. Practice matches start next weekend.
The Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team will continue to pull in three goalkeepers to camps, trying to keep it realistic to what the World Cup squad would ultimately utilize.
“I’ll get at least one more camp I was told,” D’Angelo said.
“If I performed well, maybe another. It’s up in the air.”
Five(+) Year Plan
At just 25, D’Angelo has a lot of soccer still ahead of her, but she’s got a lot of goals and hopes between now and hitting 30.
The first goal is to win a World Cup.
“Anyone heading in that direction — our team and personally, I would love to create that history for Canada,” she said.
“I do it cause I love the game, but I also do it for the people who are on the team — looking at those veterans knowing a lot of them are going to retire, I think and know they deserve it. So that’s my driving force for 25.”
For the following year, her eyes and mind are set on the Olympics.
As she turns 30, another cycle would be starting — another World Cup, and another Olympics.
“After that, it’d be reevaluating and seeing if I want to do another cycle,” she said.
She said around that time she wants to start a family.
“It might not be a soccer dream, but that’s a personal dream — to have a family,” D’Angelo said.
Keeping in Touch
D’Angelo said she would definitely keep in touch with players from the Courage including her old roommate, Dahlkemper, but especially her fellow goalkeeper, Rowland.
“I think just we were goalkeeper partners, but we built such a great friendship that I want to be there in the transition to the new goalkeeper and any way I can help her,” she said.
“I value her as a person and a friend so I know for sure [we’ll keep in touch].”
She was quick to point out that it wasn’t just fellow players she would keep in touch with. The Courage head equipment manager, Vanessa Fulcher is a good friend she’ll keep in touch with as well.
D’Angelo also said she’s kept in touch with 2018 NWSL Championship MVP Jess McDonald as well.
Leaving a Mark
Asking any professional player to single out a favorite teammate, or one that’s left a lasting mark for them is always a difficult question. It was for Sabrina D’Angelo as well, but her answer was both interesting and enlightening — Sam Mewis.
“I admire her as a human, and an athlete,” D’Angelo said.
“Seeing her come back to play and how she dealt with her injury last year was amazing. She’s always striving to be a better player — just pushing herself. She’s such a good human.”
D’Angelo said sometimes players get calls up to the national team and who they are as a person changes.
“She’s never changed as a human,” D’Angelo noted.
“It show’s a lot about who she is. Her willingness to constantly learn and be there for her teammates — I don’t think she realizes how important it is to us.”
D’Angelo got a little emotional talking about Mewis, showing further the impact Mewis had on her.
“The Courage is very grateful to have her,” she said.
“She’s somebody who can make you laugh. She can say a couple of words, and you’re inspired.You want to play for players like that, and we have a lot of them on the team, but Sammy’s somebody I truly admire.”
Message to the Courage Fans
D’Angelo wanted to also give a big thanks to the Courage fans. She said walking out each match day into the stadium and seeing the love for the team is irreplaceable, whether you’re on the bench or on the field.
“In the second half, when you get the push with Courage chant, it gives me chills every time! I love that. Keep supporting the team, and making them great. [The fans] are a huge part of who we are. We love you. Trust me. We love you all. Just thank you very very much.”