Jill Ellis

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Report: Vlatko Andonovski to be new USWNT head coach

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U.S. Soccer’s search for a new U.S. women’s national team head coach has reached a quick and tidy conclusion with Vlatko Andonovski expected to be announced as the replacement to Jill Ellis next week, according to a report from Sports Illustrated.

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Andonovski was the favorite to replace Ellis from the moment it became public knowledge she would be stepping aside following the conclusion of the USWNT’s 2019 World Cup victory tour. The 43-year-old has excelled as head coach of two NWSL franchises, FC Kansas City (2013-2017) and Seattle Reign (2018-2019), winning back-to-back NWSL titles in 2013 and 2014 and earning public praise from some of the highest-profile players whom he coached.

It was most notably that massive popularity with the players — for both his personality and tactical acumen — which made him the heavy favorite from day one.

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Prior to becoming the first head coach of FCKC (the franchise has since been relocated to Salt Lake City, where it is now knows as Utah Royals FC under the ownership and operation of MLS franchise Real Salt Lake), Andonovski was the assistant coach of the Kansas City Comets indoor team. He held both the FCKC and Comets head jobs from 2013 to 2016.

Lloyd: Coming off bench at World Cup “rock bottom of my entire career”

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The upper echelon of the USWNT player pool, especially the veteran generation, just swims in a different competitive gene pool.

Comments from a recent podcast featuring Carli Lloyd are the latest evidence of this, as the USWNT legend calls not starting regularly at this summer’s World Cup “the worst time of my life.”

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She says she was happy to be a part of it and happy for her teammates but doesn’t back down from the “worst” diagnosis. Yeah, you read that right.

“I’m not going to lie and sugarcoat it,” Lloyd said on Julie Foudy’s Laughter Permitted podcast. “It was absolutely the worst time of my life. It affected my relationship with my husband, with friends. It really was rock bottom of my entire career. But somehow, you see light at the end of the tunnel, and I can honestly say I’m having more fun now playing than I ever have in my career. I think I just learned a lot throughout it.”

To be fair, Lloyd hasn’t backed up anyone in almost a decade and has since won a Ballon d’Or. Not many elite athletes get used to being second (or fourth) fiddle, especially on a major stage like that.

The personalities on this team are as big as any produced by Ronaldo’s Brazil or Zidane’s France. Some may laugh at this, but it shows what a tremendous job Jill Ellis did in marshaling the team to two-straight World Cups, the first with Abby Wambach in a sub’s role and the second with Lloyd.

It also shows the marvelous competitive nature of Lloyd and the resilience of players who know they’d start for any number of teams in the world. Lloyd says in the podcast that she believed she was playing at near her best level despite being moved from midfielder to forward.

Obviously no player prefers a sub’s role to starting, but — wow — if it isn’t bewildering to hear Lloyd talk about her supporting role at age 37 being the worst time of her life. Different types.

U.S. plays to 1-1 draw in final game for retiring coach Ellis

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CHICAGO — Despite a goal by captain Carli Lloyd, the U.S. women’s national team was held to a 1-1 draw with South Korea on Sunday in the final game for retiring coach Jill Ellis.

Lloyd’s goal tied the game in the 37th minute, matching the score by South Korea’s Ji So-yun three minutes earlier. The draw, which gave the U.S. an 18-1-3 record under Ellis this year, came in front of 33,027 fans at Soldier Field, the third-largest crowd on the American team’s post-World Cup victory tour.

Lloyd appeared to score the go-ahead goal in the 93rd minute but was ruled offside on her shot from eight yards out. In the final minute of stoppage, Mallory Pugh had a point-blank chance but backup goalkeeper Kim Minjung got enough of her shot to deflect it off the crossbar.

Jessica McDonald’s header off the right post in the 83rd minute was the best chance to break the tie. Pugh failed to volley a 7-yard shot past Minjung in the 90th minute. The U.S. outshot South Korea 15-5.

Ellis, 53, was honored before the game with a jersey signed by the team and 132 written on the back, signifying the number of games she coached in a career that began with two stints as interim coach in 2012 and 2014. Her two world coach of the year honors came in 2015 and this year following the American victories in the Women’s World Cup.

While retiring as coach, Ellis will start her role as an ambassador for U.S. Soccer on Monday.

Ji opened the scoring in the 34th minute with an 18-yard shot that sailed just inside the left post, inches from the outstretched hands of American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. That culminated a South Korean ball-control effort that dominated the match for the first 35 minutes. It was Ji’s team-leading 55th career goal.

The U.S. tied the match three minutes later, with Lloyd heading Megan Rapinoe’s long pass over the head of goalkeeper Kang Ga-ae. The set-piece score, coming a minute after a yellow card to South Korea’s Lee Young-ju for an ankle-twisting tackle on Rose Lavelle, was Lloyd’s 13th of the year.

Midfielder Julie Ertz had the best American chance before Lloyd’s goal, left-footing a shot off the right post in the 26th minute after a Korean giveaway. Crystal Dunn’s deep-angle follow-up shot missed the target.

The American team returns to action against Sweden on Nov. 7 in Columbus, Ohio. The coach for that match has not been announced.

U.S. women’s soccer coach Jill Ellis preps for last game

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CHICAGO — Retiring U.S. Soccer women’s national team coach Jill Ellis already knows she’ll be emotional on Sunday at Soldier Field.

The two-time FIFA women’s coach of the year will lead the World Cup champions in the final game of their six-game victory tour when the U.S. team faces South Korea.

“We built the best team in the world,” Ellis said Saturday. “We were incredibly successful over the years. People have been drawn to this team because of the personality and the success.”

The 2-0 victory against South Korea on Thursday was Ellis’ record 106th, passing former coach Tony DiCicco for the most team wins before an announced crowd of 30,071 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It will be a bittersweet leave-taking after five years at the helm for Ellis and the players.

“We always have a quick meeting before our pregame meal, and that’s going to be hard to get through,” Ellis said. “They know I’m already getting emotional.”

Star forward Megan Rapinoe said Ellis adapted to a changing game and players over the years.

“Constantly trying to keep up with that, keep above it, with personnel and the way we’re been trying to play, she’s been pretty adaptable in that way,” Rapinoe said. “It would nice to send her out with a win after back-to-back World Cups.”

Forward Carli Lloyd said Ellis leaves the team’s legacy in a strong place.

“It’s been a fantastic journey to be a part of,” Lloyd said. “It’s finding a way. It took all 23 players, like it always does. Every major tournament, the story line is different. And it’s only going to get harder and harder. Winning is great, but without the journey, there would be no end bit.”

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher calls it a fitting celebration after their victory in France.

“This team has been something special,” Naeher said. “Coming off this summer … to celebrate Jill and what she’s done for U.S. soccer and this team.”

Ellis said she decided in December this would be her last year in charge, win or lose.

“If you’re blessed to do a back-to-back World Cup, it’s pretty unusual,” Ellis said. “There’s a shelf life to this job, I believe, and I think that’s healthy. It allows the ability to have change and perspective. It’s not like a college job, where there’s an incoming class.”

Ellis added she’s looking forward to attending more birthdays with her daughter, Lily.

“There’s a personal peace to that decision,” Ellis said. “I feel good. I feel complete.”

A new coach will be hired after U.S. Soccer selects a new general manager for the team (18-1-2). With assistant coach Tony Gustavsson also retiring after eight years, the coaching search is wide open heading into the Tokyo Olympics.

“The game has changed significantly,” Ellis said. “To the person who comes after me, I’d say this is not 1991 or 1999. There’s a lot more teams playing with a lot more investment. The margins are pretty fine. I had the benefit of being an assistant prior to taking the job, so I knew the players.”

The British-born Ellis announced her retirement in July. She played college soccer at William & Mary and was head coach at Illinois and UCLA before joining the U.S. national ranks as an under-21 coach in 2000.

Ellis became the U.S. team head coach in 2014 and led it to eight overall tournament titles, including the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles. The U.S. lost just seven matches during her tenure.

The 53-year-old Ellis said the new coach will have a “good sense of our players,” and “it’s just getting up to speed in the depth of the squad.”

Report: USWNT rebuffed by Arsenal in approach for Montemurro

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According to a report Monday morning by ESPN, the USWNT coaching search hit a snag recently as they were rebuffed by Arsenal after hoping to court coach Joe Montemurro.

The report states that the federation identified Montemurro as a possible candidate and received interest from the Australian, but were stopped in their tracks when Arsenal refused to let their head man engage in talks.

The USWNT is currently searching for a replacement for Jill Ellis who announced she will step down after the World Cup “Victory Tour” concludes. The last scheduled USWNT match currently on the docket is a November 10 battle with Costa Rica in Jacksonville.

Montemurro has led Arsenal Women since taking over for Pedro Martinez Losa in November of 2017. In his first season with the club he led them to the Women’s League Cup title and the final of the Women’s FA Cup, before winning the 2018/19 league title in his first full season in charge, including a stretch of nine straight victories that saw the club score 42 goals while conceding just five. They currently top the table after the first three matches of the new season, level with Manchester City on points but ahead on goal differential.

Before coaching at Arsenal, Montemurro led Melbourne City to back-to-back Australian top flight titles in the club’s first two years of existence, including an undefeated inaugural campaign.

The 50-year-old signed a new long-term contract with Arsenal last October, leaving the club in charge of his future and allowing them to deny the USWNT an interview.