Vlatko Andonovski

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USWNT opens Olympic qualifying with win over Haiti

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The USWNT was rusty, that much was clear. Vlatko Andonovski still made sure they took care of business.

Four different goalscorers delivered a 4-0 victory over Haiti to begin CONCACAF Olympic qualification, putting the United States in front of Group A early. Lynn Williams picked up a goal and assist, proving useful on an otherwise sputtery evening for Vlatko Andonovski’s attack.

Just 78 seconds into the game, Williams charged down the right flank and crossed to Christen Press at the far post for the opening goal. Williams’ assist came without the use of her left shoe which she lost while holding off a defender for the bobbling ball.

Despite the early lead, the United States seemed somewhat sluggish as Haiti built themselves into the match. There were few chances on net after the opening goal through the half-hour mark.

Haiti nearly caught the U.S. napping on a corner as the ball found the back of the net on 20 minutes, but the goal was somehow ruled out. It appeared to be for offside, but since it’s impossible to be offside from a corner, there must have been another reason for the official ruling. Nonetheless, it was a clear sign for the USWNT that they needed to pick up the level of play.

The U.S. continued to struggle after halftime, creating very little in front of net. There was a half-chance for Lloyd near the penalty spot but a quality tackle by Kethna Louis put that to bed. Then finally they put the game to bed on a corner, not coincidentally coming just five minutes after Megan Rapinoe entered the fray. Rapinoe delivered a corner to the doorstep where Williams headed in well under pressure, moving her upper body away from goal against the motion of her lower body to reach the delivery.

Another Andonovski substitute paid dividends however as Lindsey Horan scored, again coming off a corner. They played it short and Horan headed from a significant distance out, the ball squirting past the goalkeeper Kerly Theus and Louis who tried to clear off the line. It was clear that Haiti had begun to tire and the USWNT was taking advantage. Up front, Carli Lloyd had a poor game, unable to get involved in attacking play, but she found the scoresheet in stoppage time, bagging a header off a Rapinoe cross in the 93rd minute to finish out the scoring.

Emily Sonnett replaced Kelley O’Hara with 10 minutes to go for Andonovski’s final change, and the USWNT saw the rest of the match out. They have two matches remaining before the knockout stage, set to take on Panama on Friday before the group stage finale against Costa Rica on February 3. The top two teams in the group reach the knockout phase with the semifinals to begin on February 7.

USWNT Olympic Qualifying preview: Avoiding a historic hiccup

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The United States women’s national team is a World Cup monster, but it’s would like to put its Olympic standing back on a perch.

The U.S. didn’t find the podium in 2016, finishing in fifth place at the Games in Rio. The USWNT has four gold medals and a silver in the previous five tournaments.

The path to putting another bullet point on the Yanks’ incredible run begins Tuesday with what should be a comfortable if not audacious defeat of Haiti.

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Vlatko Andonovski’s first serious fixtures as USWNT boss include group stage dates against Haiti, Panama, and Costa Rica. All matches take place in Houston and it would be stunning if the Yanks lost any of them.

The USWNT hasn’t lost in over a year, their last set back coming in a 3-1 loss to France in Le Havre on Jan. 19, 2019.

Andonovski oversaw a 6-0 defeat of Costa Rica in November. The other opponents are far off the pace of Costa Rica, the No. 34 team in the FIFA Rankings. Haiti is No. 63, Panama No. 69.

The top two teams in each group make the knockout rounds. Should the U.S. follow the script, it’ll meet Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, or Saint Kitts and Nevis in the semifinal. The winner of each semifinal qualifies for the summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.

Ego aside, the challenge of following this tournament is that it’s about how the U.S. looks more than any mystery of result. Are the players bought into Andonovski’s style and tactics? How effective is his plan to keep the U.S. on top of the women’s game?

Andonovski left five World Cup winners off his roster for qualifying: Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Allie Long, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson. Morgan is pregnant while Davidson is carrying an injury.

The USWNT will have one more meaningful tournament before the Olympics, March’s SheBelieves Cup.

USWNT: Olympic qualifying roster minus five from World Cup team

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The United States’ roster for the upcoming CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will look very similar to the one that won the Women’s World Cup in France, with notable exceptions.

Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Allie Long, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson were on the title team but were left off the 20-player CONCACAF tournament roster announced Friday.

Morgan is expecting her first child with husband Servando Carrasco. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said that Davidson is still recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined her during January camp.

Pugh, a young forward who has shown promise, was one of the most surprising omissions. Andonovski said she has been invited to train with the team even though she didn’t make the roster.

“It was competitive and she did well,” Andonovski said. “But there were other players that I believe that performed better than Mal. Now, I just want to be clear that she is very good, very talented player and she performed well. She has a big future in front of her. So I’m really sure that if she keeps on developing going forward, she will be on this roster.”

The roster includes 18 players who were on the World Cup squad. Newcomers include midfielder Andi Sullivan and forward Lynn Williams.

Sullivan, a former standout at Stanford who plays for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, has 13 appearances with the national team. Williams, who plays for reigning NWSL champion North Carolina, has made 21 appearances with the national team since 2016, scoring six goals.

Carli Lloyd, who will turn 38 before the Tokyo Games, is the oldest player on the roster. Lloyd scored three goals in the 2015 World Cup final against Japan, but last year in France started in just one game as she took on more of a reserve role.

Andonovski, who was named coach of the team last October after Jill Ellis stepped down, praised Lloyd’s work ethic and said that if she continues to play well, he sees “no reason for her not to be a starter.”

Andonovski said Megan Rapinoe, the Ballon d’Or winner who scored six goals in the World Cup, was also nursing minor injuries during January camp.

“In the end, the ones that I believe will give it the best chance to be successful, that will give us the best chance to win the games and qualify for the Olympics, are the ones that made the roster,” he said.

The United States opens qualifying on Jan. 28 in Houston with a match against Haiti. The top two finishers in the eight-team tournament’s two groups advance to the semifinals in Carson, California, on Feb. 7. The final is in Carson on Feb. 9.

Two berths in the Tokyo Games this summer are up for grabs. The United States has made the field for every Olympic tournament since women’s soccer was added to the Games in 1996 and has won four gold medals.

FULL USWNT ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride).

Midfielders: Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Megan Rapinoe (Reign), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage).

USWNT trounces Costa Rica 6-0 in 2019 finale (video)

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian scored in the first 10 minutes and Lynn Williams came off the bench to add a pair of second-half goals in the United States’ 6-0 victory over Costa Rica on Sunday night at TIAA Bank Field in the Americans’ final match of the year.

The U.S. was 20W-3D-1L in 2019, finishing with a 23-match unbeaten streak.

Lloyd started the scoring in the fourth minute, taking a long pass from Rose Lavelle and drilling a shot from the left side of the box past goalkeeper Noelia Bermudez. Lloyd scored twice in a 3-2 victory over Sweden on Thursday night.

Brian added a goal in the 10th minute, taking Lavelle’s pass and sending a scorching shot into the corner of the net. It was especially gratifying for Brian, who grew up in nearby St. Simons Island, Georgia, and conducts camps in the Jacksonville area during the offseason.

U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski made several substitutions at halftime and it quickly paid dividends.

Williams converted in the 50th minute off a pass from Tobin Heath. Williams added a second goal in the 68th minute, taking an assist from Jessica McDonald. Williams narrowly missed a hat trick when her point-blank shot was caught by Bermudez late in the game.

Christen Press and Margaret Purce also added second-half goals.

U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris had a relatively easy time, needing to turn back just one shot. The closest Costa Rica came to scoring was when Melissa Herrera hit the cross bar on a shot in the 62nd minute and teammate Priscilla Chinchilla did the same in the 76th minute.

Captain Lloyd leads USWNT to win in Andonovski’s debut

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Vlatko Andonovski’s first match at USWNT boss started with glory and ended with tension, the World Cup champs riding a three-goal lead to a 3-2 win over Sweden on Thursday at Columbus Crew Stadium.

Carli Lloyd captained the side, scoring twice and adding an assist before missing a penalty that could’ve made the score 4-2 late.

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Christen Press also scored for Yanks, who allowed two goals to Anna Anvegard in five second half minutes. The Yanks out shot Sweden 16-7 and had a shade under 50 percent possession.

Andonovski was named coach on Oct. 28, taking the reins from two-time World Cup winner Jill Ellis. He comes from the NWSL’s Seattle Reign.

Lloyd’s second goal was a peach.