Just over a week after the United States women’s national team‘s exit from the 2023 World Cup in the Round of 16, Vlatko Andonovski has stepped down as head coach, The Equalizer has confirmed. U.S. Soccer is expected to announce the news on Thursday.
The U.S.’ early exit from the 2023 World Cup marked the team’s worst finish ever at 16 major tournaments. The U.S. had never previously finished worse than third at a World Cup.
Andonovski exits his role with a 51-5-9 record, with a 3-2-5 record at major tournaments. The team won a bronze medal under Andonovski at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Soccer outlet 90Min first reported that Andonovski was set to resign.
A U.S. Soccer spokesperson did not reply to a request for comment on Wednesday. Assistant coach Twila Kilgore will serve as interim coach for home games against South Africa on Sept. 21 and Sept. 24 while a search for the next head coach is conducted, a source with knowledge of the decision told The Equalizer.
The U.S. struggled at the 2023 World Cup, defeating only tournament debutant Vietnam in the team’s opening match before drawing the Netherlands and Portugal in the group stage. That scoreless draw against Portugal was a “crap” performance, Andonovski would eventually admit. He switched to the double pivot for the Round of 16 against Sweden, bringing Emily Sonnett on to join Andi Sullivan in the holding midfield roles. It largely worked, but Sweden goalkeeper Zećira Mušović made 11 saves in the game of her life, and the U.S. lost a penalty shootout by “a millimeter,” as U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher described it.
“I thought that we had a great game plan, great strategy, we executed the game plan, we had the right personnel on the field to execute the game plan and if I had to coach this group, this game all over again, I’d probably do the same,” Andonovski said after his team’s elimination.
Following the team’s elimination on August 6, Andonovski was peppered with questions about his future and culpability for the team’s failure. He pointed to the heartbreak that the players were feeling as a way of declining to speculate on the topic.
“I think it’s selfish to think about me, my future, what I’m gonna do, when we have 20-year-old players going through this situation that it is,” Andonovski said. “I want to be there for them. I love them all. They’re my players, but they’re my friends. We spent four years together. They got their first caps with me, they got their first national-team call-ups with me. We spent tough times, good times. I don’t want to see them like that. That’s all I think about.”
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U.S. Soccer hired Andonovski in the fall of 2019, selecting him over Laura Harvey in a process that came down to a pair of National Women’s Soccer League coaches. U.S. women’s national team general manager Kate Markgraf, who took the newly created role a couple months earlier, felt that Andonovski was clearly the correct choice after a series of rigorous tests and interviews.
“We identified the qualities we thought were most important for this unique position,” Markgraf said in 2019, “we talked to quite a few people in the women’s soccer community domestically and around the world, and in the end, Vlatko was the best fit with his experience with elite players, how he sees the game, how he coaches the game and manages players, and his overall personality and ability to take on a job of this magnitude.”
The next manager will have less than a year to prepare for the 2024 Olympics. Larger questions loom about the reporting structure within the women’s program under new sporting director Matt Crocker.
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