Jill Ellis

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Ellis squashes notion of USWNT ducking France in knockouts

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In a move that shocked nobody, United States head coach Jill Ellis confirmed that her squad will not be easing off the gas to avoid France in the knockout stages of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

The two powerhouse teams are expected to meet in the quarterfinals, should all prior results go as expected. For Ellis, if there are any slips before that meeting with the host nation to veer off that collision course, it certainly won’t be intentional.

“I struggle to tell my team not to tackle in training the day before,” Ellis joked during Saturday’s pre-match media conference, explaining if she can’t get her team to take it easy in practice, there’s no way she could get them to go half speed during a game. “I think at this point it’s making sure your focus is on yourself and your performance and you put yourself in the best position to advance in this tournament. For us, it’s making sure that we play as well as we possibly can and win the game.”

The United States has Chile next on its radar, a team that fell 2-0 to Sweden in its first match of the group stage and has not won a single game since a 5-0 beating of Peru in the first round of the 2018 Copa America Feminina over a calendar year ago. It’s possible the United States rotates the squad in that game, but it will not be to throw the game. Instead, Ellis may look to ease the burden on her more delicate legs.

“We want to make this a long tournament,” Ellis said. “To do that, we certainly know it’s going to take a lot of physical effort and output from every single one of those players.”

For Ellis, she needs her players in the right place mentally, and there’s no room for shenanigans at that level.
“My job right now is to obviously prepare them for games, but it’s also to keep them in a good space,” she said. “That’s everything from how we are in training, to the things that we do, to meetings, to just making sure they have time with their families. Everything kind of has to come together in terms of making sure that the mindset is right. It’s about healthy players., and a very good mindset is a big part of teams who win championships.”

After Chile, the U.S. will clash with Sweden in a game that is expected to decide the top spot in Group F. The winner of Group F is expected to meet the winner of Group A – the host nation France’s group – in the quarterfinals in Paris on June 28.

USWNT coach Ellis responds to Solo’s comments

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USWNT head coach Jill Ellis has taken the high road.

Ahead of the U.S. women’s national team kicking off their 2019 World Cup campaign against Thailand in Reims on Tuesday, former USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo has been critical of Ellis.

The legendary goalkeeper, who had her contract cancelled by U.S. Soccer back in 2016 over disciplinary reasons, lashed out at Ellis when talking on the BBC in her role as a pundit for the tournament.

“Jill is not the leader I wish her to be,” Solo said. “She relies heavily on her assistant coaches. She cracks under the pressure quite a bit. But often that doesn’t matter because the quality of the players on the U.S. team is superb. It doesn’t matter who is coaching us because we will find a way to win. The United States knows how to find a way to win in spite of who the coach is.”

Tell us how you really feel, Hope…

But Ellis, who led the USWNT to the World Cup title in 2015 with Solo in goal, hasn’t risen to the bait.

Speaking to the media ahead of their tournament opener, Ellis tried to play down the comments and labelled Solo as a ‘pundit’ and nothing else.

“Comments are comments. For me, personally, I feel over the past five years I’ve made a lot of important decisions and I have processes to make those decisions, and I own those processes,” Ellis said. “At this point, everything and every focus is about this group of players that are here and now. Pundits, out there, that’s part of it. And part of the message is always to make sure that the focus is on the internal part of the game. And that’s where we are.”

Ellis won the 2015 World Cup just months after  she was handed a permanent contract after being in interim charge, and since then she’s had plenty of critics as the USWNT were knocked out of the Rio 2016 Olympics by Sweden at the quarterfinal stage. A few U.S. hiccups have occurred while the rest of the women’s soccer world has caught up at the international level with England, the Netherlands and France all pushing on and among the favorites to prevail this summer.

The pressure is on Ellis and the USWNT to defend their crown, and she knows it. Ellis doesn’t need Solo or anybody else to crank up any extra pressure, because everyone expects this USWNT to win the trophy in France. Solo’s differences with this current USWNT and the U.S. Soccer Federation is clear, but Ellis did well to not respond too strongly and add any further fuel to the fire.

What’s the USWNT’s best XI for the World Cup?

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Jill Ellis still has some time to tinker with her World Cup starting lineup, though she’s long had the luxury to plan for this summer.

When you’re the United States women’s national team manager, it’s all about the Olympics and the World Cup. Most friendlies can be won while experimenting, CONCACAF matches are straight-forward unless the opponent is Mexico, and the SheBelieves Cup is still growing in renown.

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So, yes, any uncertainty about the Yanks’ Best XI for a World Cup knockout round game is a head-scratcher, even with the wealth of talent at Ellis’ disposal as she attempts to make it back-to-back World Cup titles.

Seemingly the biggest questions are in the midfield, beginning with how often to deploy Carli Lloyd, and whether she’s a super sub or still an absolute force from the opening kickoff. Lloyd, 36, is a World Cup cycle removed from being crowned the best player in the world, but Rose Lavelle has been terrific when healthy.

The other questions is who to include in the other midfield spot near Julie Ertz, and both Lindsay Horan and Sam Mewis can lay righteous claims to starting bids. Still, Horan will get the chance to drive the bus more often than not in a roaming role.

With Thailand and Chile before Sweden, though, don’t be surprised if we get one last audition for Mewis or even Lloyd. Either way, opportunities abound against a Thailand team which regularly gives up multiple goals to top teams.

Here’s our bet:

Naeher

O’Hara — Sauerbrunn — Dahlkemper — Dunn

Horan — Ertz

Lavelle

Heath — Morgan — Rapinoe

Klinsmann received $3.35M settlement from U.S. Soccer

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CHICAGO (AP) Jurgen Klinsmann received a $3.35 million settlement of his contract with the U.S. Soccer Federation, according to the USSF’s tax filing.

His replacement, Bruce Arena, was given a $300,000 settlement during the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2018, according to the filing, which was released Monday.

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Klinsmann was hired in 2011 and in December 2013 was given a contract extension through December 2018. He was fired in November 2016 after an 0-2 start in the final round of World Cup qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean. His contract was settled for $3,354,167, the tax filing said.

Arena earned $899,348 in base pay during the fiscal year and a $50,000 bonus, according to the filing, which was first reported by The Washington Post. He quit after the U.S. loss at Trinidad and Tobago in October 2017 that ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances.

Dave Sarachan, Arena’s top assistant, was the interim coach from October 2017 through last November. He had a base salary of $223,656 during the fiscal year.

Klinsmann’s top assistant, Andri Herzog, was given a settlement of $355,537 during the fiscal year. He is now Israel’s national team coach.

U.S. women’s coach Jill Ellis earned $291,029 in base pay during the fiscal year, which did not include a major tournament. He compensation was topped by under-20 men’s coach Tab Ramos, who had $295,558 in base pay plus a $30,000 bonus.

USSF CEO Dan Flynn, who has said he may be retiring, had $684,617 in base pay and $130,000 in bonuses. Chief operating officer Jay Berhalter, brother of new U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, had $466,195 in base pay and $115,563 in bonuses.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

USWNT rolls out 10-match schedule pre-World Cup

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Jill Ellis should have the United States women’s national team well-drilled in its bid to reclaim the World Cup, announcing its warm-up schedule two days before Saturday’s WWC draw in France.

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Beginning next month, the USWNT will play 10 matches across two continents as Ellis attempts to become the first manager to lead the Americans to consecutive World Cup wins.

Only two of those matches are outside the U.S., with the USWNT visiting France and Spain on Jan. 19 and 22, respectively.

The Yanks will then get experience defending a trophy when they host the SheBelievesCup between Feb. 27-March 5, playing Japan in Chester, Penn., England in Nashville, and Brazil in Tampa.

April friendlies follow against Australia in Colorado (April 4) and Belgium at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium, before the 3-match Send-Off Series sees the USWNT host South Africa in Santa Clara, a TBD opponent in St. Louis, and Mexico at Red Bull Arena between May 12-26.

The USWNT is set to defend the World Cup for the first time since 2003 this summer in France when it bids to become the first team to win four Women’s World Cup tournaments (It is already the first to win three).

They’ve placed at every WWC, finishing first three times, second once, and third on three occasions.