After the WUSA ceased operations in 2003, many players hung up their cleats and got “real” jobs. Not Nancy Augustyniak. The continent hopping U.S. defender took off on what was basically a two-year European vacation, with a lot of soccer thrown in. As the USA prepares to face Mexico on Sunday, Oct. 23 in Charleston, S.C. (1 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and Telemundo), the Clemson University grad sat down with ussoccer.com to talk about her travels, and her upcoming nuptials in, how convenient? … Charleston, S.C.
It is rare that a young woman from the quiet and scenic suburb of Peachtree City, Georgia, would find herself smack dab in the middle of Berlin, Germany, a thriving international metropolis.
But after the fall of the WUSA, that’s just where Nancy Augustyniak was, in a city home to another infamous fall (that being a wall) to play for Turbine Potsdam in the German Women’s Bundesliga.
After finishing her college career at Clemson in 2000, the speedy defender went straight into the WUSA, where she started for the Atlanta Beat for three seasons. Unlike many of the ex-WUSA players, who plunged head first into other jobs and coaching careers, Augustyniak decided she wasn’t done playing at a high level.
Former Beat forward Connie Pohlers, herself a German National Team player, put the word out that her club was looking for defenders. Germany? Europe? Adventure? “Why not?” said Augustyniak, who along with her twin sister Julie, also a former Clemson and Beat player, hopped on a plane and headed across the pond in February of 2004.
“We didn’t even have to think twice,” said Augustyniak. “Before there was even talk of the (WUSA), we wanted to go overseas after we graduated and play. It was a little impulsive, but it was just one of those things. We didn’t know when or if the league was coming back or what was next in our lives, so we went.”
The twins landed on an excellent team that would not only win the “double” that year – the league and cup championship – but would go on the next season to win the Women’s UEFA Champions League.
“It was an amazing experience and a great learning experience,” said Augustyniak. “I had never, ever studied German, so that was a challenge. I’d been overseas with regional teams and such, but living in another country and playing with players who didn’t speak English was just totally different.”
Growing up in Georgia, where you don’t pass someone on the street without smiling and saying hello, and then moving to East Germany were people weren’t quite so warm, was also an eye-opener.
“It took a while for the Germans to open up to us,” said Augustyniak. “We lived with a family who spoke English and took us in, so that made the transition a bit easier, but it was difficult adapting to a new coach and a new system.”
In the German Women’s Cup Final, Potsdam beat perennial power FC Frankfurt - a team stocked with German National Team players - at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium in a match played before the men’s German Cup Final. At the end of the match, a crowd of over 40,000 was watching.
At the end of the season, the twins returned to the USA to play for the Chicago Cobras in the USL W-League. After that summer, and with no qualms about another European adventure, they decided to try another country, so off to Sweden they went.
From August through October of 2004, they played for Stattena in Sweden’s top flight. While the results were not as good there (they finished in last place and were relegated), the experience was a more open and positive one.
“We liked Sweden a lot better because everyone spoke English and its such a beautiful country, but the soccer was a bit frustrating,” said Augustyniak. “We were playing different roles in Sweden. In Germany we had a good team, and we were complimentary players, but in Sweden we were put in more leadership roles and the team chemistry just wasn’t there.”
After that season, Nancy decided to give Germany another shot (Julie stayed in Atlanta), playing for Wolfsburg from January 2005 through the end of May. The team owners, car- makers Volkswagen, treated her well.
“The coaching and the players are different over there,” said Augustyniak. “You have to be prepared to adapt and be flexible in your philosophy of the game, but overall it was an amazing experience. They had a very good men’s team, which was fun to watch, and to have the ability to travel was awesome. The way we saw it, were getting organized training and games, got the chance to experience Europe and learned some German. The soccer was just a bonus.”
Augustyniak spent a week last year with the national team in Olympic Residency Camp, and trained with the U.S. team over the past two weeks, although she did not make the roster for either game. Still, like in Europe, she gained some valuable experience.
“I feel like I’m off to a good start,” said Augustyniak, who is so far uncapped. “I got a good feel for the new coaching staff and what they are looking for [out of me] as a defender for the future.”
The immediate future is exciting for the 26-year-old, who is marrying her college sweetheart, Josh Goffi, a former nationally-ranked Clemson tennis player on Nov. 5 in Charleston. The trip to the Low Country with the U.S. team unexpectedly gave her the chance to work on some wedding plans.
Will her next step be back to Europe? That’s unlikely with a new husband and a busy 2006 with the U.S. team on the horizon. But she’s got her passport ready just in case.