U.S. Soccer names Vlatko Andonovski as new USWNT manager
U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro named Vlatko Andonovski as the next manager of the women's national team on Monday.
Andonovski will replace Jill Ellis, who led the U.S. to back-to-back World Cup wins in 2015 and 2019 before retiring at the beginning of October.
"We are thrilled to welcome Vlatko to the U.S. Soccer family," said Cordeiro. "As one of the most accomplished coaches in the NWSL history, he's proven he can help world-class players reach their peak, inspire his teams and win championships.
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"He is widely respected by players and leaders across our soccer community, and he has the work ethic and winning mentality to guide the greatest women's soccer program in history into their next era of success."
The 43-year-old becomes the ninth person to hold the U.S. women's coaching job and the first to do so as a product of a domestic women's professional league. Andonovski most recently managed Reign FC in the National Women's Soccer League and won two titles with FC Kansas City. He is one of three people to hold a head coaching position since the league's inception in 2013.
The U.S. will attempt to become the first team to win World Cup and Olympic titles in successive years under Andonovski, who has no prior international coaching experience.
His overall record in seven NWSL seasons is 68-47-43 with five playoff appearances.
Born in the former Yugoslavia, in what is now North Macedonia, Andonovski moved to the United States in 2000 to play professional indoor soccer for the Wichita Wings. He spent most of his indoor playing career in Kansas City and remained in the area with his wife and three children to coach youth soccer after he retired as a player in 2005.
A relative unknown in women's soccer when hired by FC Kansas City, which shared ownership interests with the Kansas City Comets indoor team for which he had played, Andonovski led the team to the playoffs in its first season and then won back-to-back titles the next two seasons.
He was widely lauded for both working well with veteran players like U.S. internationals Becky Sauerbrunn and Lauren Holiday, who won defender of the year and MVP honors, respectively, while playing for him, and developing young talent like 2013 NWSL Rookie of the Year Erika Tymrak.
Andonovski has also received praise for his work this season with Reign FC. Despite losing six players to season-ending or long-term injuries, as well as playing without FIFA Player of the Year Megan Rapinoe for most of the season, Reign FC qualified for the playoffs with a 10-6-8 record. The team will play the North Carolina Courage in a semifinal this weekend.
Asked recently while she was on international duty with the U.S. about Andonovski's strengths, Rapinoe spoke about his ability to connect with, and challenge, an entire roster. She also suggested a bigger stage might bring out even more of his knowledge and talent.
"His tactical flexibility and knowledge is tremendous," Rapinoe said. "Even being in the NWSL, I don't think he's really able to put on his full arsenal of what he knows."
Andonovski's first game as U.S. coach will be against Sweden, currently ranked fifth in the world, on Nov. 7 in Columbus, Ohio, and Costa Rica on Nov. 10 in Jacksonville, Florida. The U.S. will go through Olympic qualifying at a date still to be determined next year. Only two CONCACAF teams qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
ESPN W writer Graham Hays contributed to this story.