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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Vlatko Andonovski Steps Down as U.S. Women’s Soccer Coach Following World Cup Elimination

The United States Soccer Federation revealed on Thursday that women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski has resigned, bringing to a close a rather difficult career overseeing what was once the world’s preeminent squad.

The conclusion of the year marked the end of Andonovski’s four-year contract. An assistant coach for the U.S. women’s national team, Twila Kilgore, was named interim coach on Thursday by U.S. Soccer. Kilgore has worked as an assistant coach in the National Women’s Soccer League before, spending two years with the Houston Dash.

The federation is hoping to appoint a permanent successor by the end of the year so that they can start preparing for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

The departure of Andonovski was widely anticipated. After winning the previous two Women’s World Cups, the United States severely underachieved this year. The loss to Sweden in a penalty shootout in the round of 16 was the team’s quickest elimination in tournament history. The United States, one of the tournament favourites, finished last in the group stage after scoring just four goals and defeating only Vietnam. They also drew with the Netherlands and Portugal.

Before being hired by U.S. Soccer in October 2019, Andonovski (then aged 46) spent seven years as a head coach in the N.W.S.L. Former coach Jill Ellis, whose United States side became the first to win back-to-back Women’s World Cups under her leadership, resigned after five years in the position.

In his first 16 games as a head coach, Andonovski’s teams were undefeated, including victories in the 2020 Concacaf Olympic qualification tournament and the SheBelieves Cup. Andonovski’s first two years in office were complicated by the coronavirus epidemic, which broke out six months into his term and pushed the Tokyo Olympics back to 2021. The United States went into the Games as favourites but ended up with just a bronze medal.

It was immediately questioned if the United States had what it took to win three consecutive World Cups, a feat that had not been accomplished since the tournament’s debut in 1991. The Americans’ first game victory against Vietnam was by a score of 3-0, which was much closer than the 13-0 rout of Thailand that kicked off their 2019 championship run. Lindsey Horan’s header made the score 1-1 between the United States and the Netherlands.

The United States advanced to the round of 16 despite failing to win its group after a scoreless draw with Portugal. This result prompted a “Belief” social media campaign, but it also opened the national team up to criticism from its own players, including former stars Tobin Heath and Carli Lloyd.

He also experimented with new roles for stars like Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz, with mixed success. Emerging stars like Ashley Sanchez and Alyssa Thompson, both only 18 years old, saw little action.

One millimetre was all it took for Sweden to get the upper hand and leave the United States (and Andonovski) far behind.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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