WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Jill Ellis will look to put her stamp on the U.S. national team when her side plays Canada in a friendly on Thursday night at Investors Group Field. This is the second stint Ellis has had as an interim U.S. head coach, and she is a candidate for the permanent job.
In 2012 she took over for the departed Pia Sundhage and last month she was thrust into the spotlight after the unexpected sacking of Tom Sermanni.
The Portsmouth, England native, has compiled an undefeated record of 6-0-2 with the U.S. Her most recent victory came on April 10 in San Diego after dispatching China 3-0 thanks to a brace from Carli Lloyd, and a goal from Sydney Leroux. With a permanent role as head coach Ellis would have time to call in players, and assemble a roster to her liking.
But Ellis is focused on getting set to play Canada, not on how the match might reflect on her résumé.
“I would be naive to say a result here is important if that’s the situation,” Ellis said after training Wednesday. “I think for me right now, it’s the team first. I’ve been asked to take this caretaker role and focus on the players and getting them ready, so it’s not really anything involving what I want to do. It’s about getting ready to win this match.”
NWSL coaches Paul Riley and Randy Waldrum, join Ellis has top contenders to lead the U.S. team at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but bot seem unlikely given U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati’s comments over the weekend.
“I think it’s very hard for an NWSL coach to do double duty and we’re in the middle of the NWSL season with a very short time frame between now and qualifying. So I think it would be very hard,” Gulati said at halftime of Sky Blue FC’s win over the Boston Breakers.
Current Tyresö coach Tony Gustavsson has been been regarded by media as a top candidadte, and he was an assistant to Pia Sundhage in 2012, gaining the trust of many players.
U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo believes all of the coaching talk will eventually sort itself out. Solo is not worried about when the final coaching decision will be made. As far as the Seattle Reign FC keeper is concerned, it’s all about performing and getting results no matter who is in charge.
“We’re all comfortable with Jill,” Solo said Wednesday. “She’s been around the program for a long time. I think the least of our worries, despite what everybody else thinks, is the coach and when U.S Soccer is going to name the coach. First and foremost we want to come into Canada and we want to get a win. We’re a year out from the World Cup and for us right now it’s all about results. It doesn’t matter who is at the helm, and it doesn’t matter who is going to be in charge, our team needs to perform. Certainly they’re going to name a coach within good time.
“We’re comfortable under Jill and we are preparing like we didn’t even skip a beat. Jill just came in, we watched video, we had meetings and there hasn’t been any emotional attachment. There haven’t been any long meetings about what’s going to happen. We just got in and we’ve got to work.”
Gulati has a tough decision to make with the world cup rapidly approaching. The Tom Sermanni experiment did not go as planned, and there is a tough and pressing decision to be made with World Cup qualifying fast-approaching in October.
Many of the players, including Carli Lloyd are quite familiar with Ellis, who first became a national team assistant under Sundhage in 2008 and has been around the program in some capacity most of the time since. Ellis passed on putting her name in for the head coaching job in 2012, when Sermanni was hired, but has publicly said that “this time, it makes sense for me.”
Midfielder Carli Lloyd said Ellis would make a great full-time coach if her role became permanent.
“Yeah, I like Jill,” Lloyd said. “I think she’s been great for the program. I played for her for a bunch of years on the U-21 national team. She’s got a great familiarity with the team, she’s a good leader, and I think she would be great for the job.”
With an inside knowledge of the program in a time of need — and with no time to spare — Ellis and she should certainly be considered the front-runner to land the U.S. coaching vacancy.
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