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‘It’s home’: Inside Vlatko Andonovski’s return to Kansas City, NWSL

After four years as USWNT coach and a difficult 2023 World Cup showing, the two-time NWSL Championship-winning coach is back where he started.

Photo: Jeff Husted/Kansas City Current

Any good story in Kansas City starts with barbeque, even for Vlatko Andonovski.

Andonovski was trying to keep to himself as waded through the difficult emotions of resigning as United States women’s national team coach after the squad’s Round-of-16 exit at the 2023 World Cup in August when one of his friends called with a simple message: ‘We’re going to Joe’s.’ Going out was not on Andonovski’s to-do list, but his friend was not taking ‘no’ for an answer.

After Andonoski and his friend finished their meal at the self-proclaimed world-famous establishment, a man came out of the building and yelled out to get their attention in the parking lot. The man — a complete stranger — proceeded to hug Andonovksi and talk about how he wanted the coach back in Kansas City.

That moment in the parking lot came about two months before Monday’s announcement that Andonovski is the new head coach and sporting director of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Kansas City Current. Andonovski said that incident, among other support he has received, was a reminder of why the job he sought was more than just another coaching gig.

“I wanted this job because of, obviously, the organization and everything, but also because of the city,” Andonovski told The Equalizer in an exclusive interview. “I want to do it for [Current majority owners] Chris and Angie [Long]. I want to do it for the players. I want to do it for the staff that I’m surrounded by. But I want to do it for the community, too. That’s one thing that I feel like, personally, I bring here that no other coach would be able to bring: that passion and love for Kansas City.”

Andonovski has called Kansas City home for over two decades since he arrived from what is now North Macedonia to play professional indoor soccer. In Kansas City, he went from a respected indoor player to becoming a coach whose first big break came when he was put in charge of the NWSL’s FC Kansas City upon the launch of the franchise in late 2012. Two NWSL Championships and seven years later, a self-proclaimed “nobody” was named the head coach of the United States women’s national team.

Now, he’s back in charge of a different Kansas City team unrecognizable to the one that folded in 2017. He, too, is a different coach than he was when he last worked in the NWSL four years ago.

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