The two-time reigning Women's World Cup champions have a new head coach.
Vlatko Andonovski has been tabbed as Jill Ellis's successor, taking charge of the U.S. women's national team after a successful run in the NWSL. According to SI.com's Grant Wahl, his contract includes the 2023 Women's World Cup, a clear indication it's a long-term deal. Andonovski was presented in New York City on Monday, a day after the NC Courage beat the Chicago Red Stars for the NWSL title. That introduction can be watched here:
Andonovski's Reign FC, which was hampered by injuries and absences all season yet made the four-team playoffs anyway, pushed the Courage to extra time before succumbing in the semifinals.
Andonovski won two NWSL titles with FC Kansas City and is widely regarded as one of the top coaches the league has seen. At Reign FC, he coached U.S. star Megan Rapinoe, and his hiring is said to be a popular one among the U.S. veterans.
That does not mean Andonovski will be content with the status quo, no matter the USA's success in France this past summer. SI's Grant Wahl reports that he'll be calling in USA-England dual-national Alana Cook, a 22-year-old PSG defender and someone who could be part of a greater trend of U.S. players based abroad getting looks with the national team. The entirety of the U.S. roster at the World Cup was based in the NWSL.
Andonovski was the last candidate standing after a number of potential hires either withdrew or were not chosen. NC Courage's Paul Riley and Florida State's Mark Krikorian both said they were not interested in the position, while Utah Royals coach Laura Harvey indicated that she wouldn't be getting the job days before the BBC's initial report that Andonovski had won out.
"We are thrilled to welcome Vlatko to the U.S. Soccer family," U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro said in a statement. "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. 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."
He has some big shoes to fill in his first job on the international level. Ellis stepped down as the winningest coach in USWNT history (106-7-19) in addition to guiding two World Cup-winning teams. Andonovski can do something that Ellis could not, though, if he can guide the Americans to Olympic gold in Japan next summer.
"We identified the qualities we thought were most important for this unique position, we talked to quite a few people in the women's soccer community domestically and around the world, and in the end, Vlatko was the best fit with his experience with elite players, how he sees the game, how he coaches the game and manages players, and his overall personality and ability to take on a job of this magnitude," USWNT general manager Kate Markgraf said.
His first matches are around the corner, with the USA hosting Sweden and Costa Rica in friendlies on Nov. 7 and 10, respectively, to close out the 2019 slate.