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U.S. women’s national team soccer coach Vlatko Andonovski resigns

Poor showing at World Cup led to decision

By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer
Published: August 16, 2023, 6:17pm

U.S. women’s national soccer 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 tournament champions struggled throughout the World Cup. A victory over Vietnam to kick off the group stage was followed by a pair of 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 the World Cup.

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 U.S. 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.”

It wasn’t just the World Cup that hurt Andonovski’s chances of keeping his job. The United States also finished with a disappointing bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Following the Olympics, 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 a pair of 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.

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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 with the team.

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, was named coach of the team in 2014 and led the U.S. to eight overall tournament titles, including victories at the World Cup in 2015 and 2019. Over the course of her tenure, the United States lost just seven matches.

Now the process will start to find a replacement, and the timeline 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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