Illustration of Vlatko Andonovski by Oscar Oeding.

After the United States Women’s National Soccer Team’s (USWNT) historic win at the 2019 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Women’s World Cup and a fourth World Cup win, Jill Ellis announced that she would be stepping down as head coach of the USWNT after five years. During Jill Ellis’ experience as head coach, she established herself not just as a fan favorite but as a champion, winning FIFA world and Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) coach of the year in 2015. Ellis also won two consecutive World Cup titles in her time as coach of the USWNT. She helped many players on the team get their starts such as Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle. Jill Ellis was a very well-loved coach and will be missed by both fans and players alike, and left a lasting impact on the game and the USWNT.

That being said, the new USWNT coach, Vlatko Andonovski, has a lot of potential for the team and the future of the program. Andonovski has been a head coach in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) for both FC Kansas City (coaching for seven seasons and winning two NWSL championships) and Seattle Reign FC for two seasons. He was named NWSL Coach of the Year in both 2013 and after the 2019 season. With all of these accomplishments, as well as coaching USWNT stars like Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn, Andonovski would be a natural choice for the position as he has the experience and personability.

The process of hiring a new USWNT head coach was conducted by Kate Markgraf, the General Manager of the USWNT. She started out by having informal conversations with multiple coaches just to get to know them before starting a serious hiring process. The serious process began with an interview which was then narrowed down to two candidates. Those two candidates were flown to Chicago where they presented on their coaching methods and participated in a conversation about how they would handle stressful situations with Markgraf and the rest of the hiring panel. After these presentations, that panel unanimously voted on which candidate they liked the most: Andonovski was the favorite. This vote was then taken to other committees within the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) where they voted in favor of Andonovski as well. When Markgraf was making her final decisions on the top two candidates, she consulted with players from FC Kansas City, Seattle Reign FC and the USWNT players and staff.

When the announcement of the new head coach was made on October 28, 2019, a press conference was held the same day in order for the press to ask questions of Andonovski, Kate Markgraf and USSF President, Carlos Cordeiro. During this conference, Andonovski talked about his coaching style, how he will differ from Jill Ellis, and the near future of the USWNT. When asked about the upcoming Olympic qualifiers and how the rosters would change, Andonovski said he would like to “focus on those core players throughout qualif[iers] but we are going to try new players.” He has already added five new players to the roster for the December camp. Among those is Midge Purce, a Portland Thorns FC defender.

When Jill Ellis announced her retirement, the standards that she had set for the team were discussed as they were so high after coming off of a World Cup win and a successful victory tour. When asked about these standards, Andonovski replied: “Jill pushed the standards even higher but I’m well aware of it and we’re going to go to win every game and the big tournaments.” The topic of equal pay came up during the press conference and Andonovsk gave his take on the issue while only sitting a seat away from Cordeiro. His response was that he is “very respectful of the drive that the players have for this [equal pay] but [that drive] translates on the field too and they put that issue to the side and work hard.”

After winning his first two games against Costa Rica and Sweden, bringing up multiple new players and already bringing a new environment to the USWNT, fans, U.S. Soccer staff, and the press will be watching to see how the team is affected.

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