The only things that are certain in life are death, taxes — and excellent Portland Thorns goalkeeping. It’s courtesy of the endless hard work from the players, but also the coaching brilliance from Thorns and German National Team legend Nadine Angerer.
In the 2023 NWSL Draft, the Portland Thorns added to the goalkeeper squad by selecting GK Lauren Kozal with the 32nd pick out of Michigan State University. It marked the first time Thorns general manager Karina Leblanc’s used a draft pick on a goalkeeper.
The past two seasons Kozal has been lights out at MSU, and her list of accolades is the precursor for what could be a promising professional career.
She has made a name for herself being a fantastic ‘keeper, but also as a leader. Kozal became only the second MSU player to be a repeat All-American, earned two Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year honors in a row, and was semi-finalist for the MAC Hermann trophy. Kozal also holds the single-season school record for most wins as a goalkeeper with 17.
Kozal now is under the tutelage of Nadine Angerer — the ‘Goalkeeper Whisperer’ and possible the best goalkeeping coach in the world.
How good is she at her job? Look at these names: AD Franch, Bella Bixby, Michelle Betos, Britt Eckerstrom, and Shelby Hogan. Each one of these players have excelled and flourished when given the chance.
With the 32nd pick in the 2023 #NWSLDraft we’ve selected Lauren Kozal from Michigan State.— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) January 13, 2023
Let's get started in Portland, Lauren! #BAONPDX pic.twitter.com/6O5FQdFJkH
If someone can tap into a GK’s massive upside, it has always been Nadine Angerer. The chance for Lauren Kozal to grow and develop under the eye of Angerer is one that has massive potential. Kozal was touted for her elite shot-stopping ability, distribution, and intelligence. In today’s modern game, she has all the tools to be a star.
Angerer has prepared her goalkeepers to play at an elite level whenever their name is called upon. Bella Bixby has been one of the best goalkeepers in the league for years and Shelby Hogan continues to be clutch every time she gets an opportunity. This has everyone excited to see what Lauren Kozal may be able to do with her coaching.
By being drafted to Portland Thorns, she already has the stamp of approval from Leblanc and Angerer that she can develop and join that lineage.
Kozal herself had the chance to share what her experience has been working with the ‘Goalkeeper Whisperer’ so far in an exclusive interview with Stumptown Footy. “It’s been super great. Obviously, I have so much to learn. Especially being able to learn from her is such an incredible opportunity for me and my development.,” Kozal shared.”
“It’s been super fun. She’s super funny and the group is amazing. They’ve been super supportive and helpful for me. It’s just been great.”
Kozal also has the chance now to continue her development with the USA U-23 Women’s Youth National Team. Earlier this month Kozal got called-up to the camp in France and has the chance to play two big games against the French.
We see you @laurenkozal!— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) February 9, 2023
Lauren heads to Paris this month with the #U23WYNT. #BAONPDX https://t.co/i6H0iINiTz
Many of the top goalkeepers in NWSL have made caps for the U-23 side. It is a stepping stone for so many great goalkeepers in the league and an opportunity to show off her enormous talent, and now the Portland Thorns rookie a chance to follow that path.
The percentage of elite goalkeepers called up the the U23WYNT before going to the senior team is pretty darn good. All current USWNT goalies: Alyssa Naeher, AD Franch, and Casey Murphy have all played on the U-23 team before eventually going to the senior team. This doesn’t include Aubrey Kingsbury and Jane Campbell, who also have made appearances for both.
By making it to this youth national team, Kozal puts herself in excellent company, and on an exciting trajectory. This experience will be beneficial and help her development immensely, as well as be an exciting opportunity to represent her country.
“I’m super excited, obviously a great honor,” Kozal shared when asked what the call-up means to her. “[I] was super excited and happy that I was even considered in the preliminary round, but obviously can’t wait to go represent our country and check out France a little bit.”
As for checking out France, Kozal has her priorities on what she wants to see and experience while in Paris: “For sure the Eiffel Tower, but my mom keeps talking about the Champs-Élysées. She’s so funny. So I guess, I better send her a picture of that.”
Let’s hear your thoughts: How excited are you to see her play? Is Portland’s goalkeeping platoon the best in the NWSL? Any other recommendations for Kozal while she’s in France? Let us know!