US women’s soccer coach Vlatko Andonovski resigns following World Cup defeat

Aug 17, 2023, 7:59 AM

Vlatko Andonovski, US women's soccer coach...

U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski stands on the field during a FIFA Women's World Cup team practice at Bay City Park in Auckland, New Zealand, July 23, 2023.(AP Photo/Abbie Parr, File)

(AP Photo/Abbie Parr, File)

U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski has resigned, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The move comes less than two weeks after the Americans were knocked out of the Women’s World Cup earlier than ever before.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the move had not been officially announced. An announcement was expected Thursday.

The four-time champion struggled through the World Cup. A victory over Vietnam to kick off the group stage was followed by draws against Netherlands and Portugal — barely enough to get the team into the knockout stage.

The Americans played well in the round of 16 against Sweden but ultimately fell on penalties after a scoreless tie. The U.S. scored just four goals over the course of the tournament.

The United States had never finished worse than third at previous World Cups.

The 46-year-old Andonovski was named coach of the United States in October 2019, taking over for Jill Ellis, who led the United States to back-to-back World Cup titles. He finished 51-5-9 during his time with the team, and was 3-2-5 in major tournaments.

Following the match against Sweden, Andonovski said he wasn’t thinking about his future with the team — only his young players. Fourteen players on the roster were appearing in their first World Cup, and 12 of them had never played in a major tournament.

“We spent four years together. They got their first caps with me, they got their first national team call-ups with me,” Andonovski said. “We spent tough times, good times. I don’t want to see them like that. That’s all I think about.”

The United States also finished with a disappointing bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Afterward, Andonovski turned his attention on developing young players ahead of the World Cup. Some of the players who emerged were Sophia Smith, last year’s U.S. Soccer player of the year, and Trinity Rodman.

The United States was bitten by injuries in the run-up to the tournament, losing key players. Mallory Swanson injured her knee during a friendly in April, and captain Becky Sauerbrunn couldn’t recover from a foot injury in time.

Promising young forward Catarina Macario tore her ACL playing for her club team Lyon last year and also wasn’t ready to play in the World Cup.

The World Cup was challenging for many elite teams because of the ever-growing parity in the women’s game. Germany, Brazil and Canada, the winners in Tokyo, also got knocked out early. Sunday’s final between England and Spain in Sydney will give the tournament a first-time winner.

Andonovski was head coach of Seattle’s OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League when he was hired. During his seven years in the NWSL, he led the now-defunct FC Kansas City from the league’s inception in 2013 until the club folded in 2017, winning two league titles.

Andonovski, a native of Skopje, Macedonia, played for several teams in Europe before embarking on a professional indoor soccer career in the United States.

His predecessor on the U.S. team, Ellis, led the Americans to World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019. Over the course of her five-year tenure, they lost just seven matches.

“What I would hope in this (hiring) process (is) that it’s robust, it’s diverse. It has to be,” Ellis said Thursday in Sydney. “This is a critical hire. And I think it has to be the right person.”

The timeline to find a replacement is relatively short. The United States has already qualified for the 2024 Olympics in France. Before that, the team has a pair of exhibition matches against South Africa on Sept. 21 in Cincinnati and Sept. 24 in Chicago.

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