New USWNT coach feels weight of expectation
How do you build on near perfection? That is the daunting challenge facing Vlatko Andonovski after the 43-year-old was appointed as the new head coach of the United States Women’s National soccer team.
Andonovski replaces Jill Ellis who first settled into the role in 2012 as interim coach and went on to win two World Cups and 87.5% of her matches in charge as the USWNT became the undisputed rulers of their sport.
“It’s tough because of all the pressure that comes with winning every game,” Andonovski, who left his post as head coach of Reign FC in the NWSL to take up his new role, told CNN Sport’s Don Riddell.
“It is important for this team to win every game and not just every game but to win big tournaments as well. They won back-to-back World Cups and the expectation is the win the next one.”
Winning, though, might not come as easy for Andonovski as it did for his predecessor.
The standard of the women’s game has improved significantly, with more competitive and professional leagues in Europe bolstering the number of star players across the globe.
“I don’t know if there is one rival that we should be particularly worried about because there are so many of them,” Andonovski said.
“We saw that every game in the World Cup was extremely competitive. That every game went down to the wire. It is important to look at all the countries, respect what they do and try and stay ahead of them.”
However the USWNT’s 13-0 victory over Thailand — a tournament record — sparked protestations from critics who argued the number of goals scored as well as the manner of the team’s celebrations were an affront to the spirit off the game.
Andonovski is nonplussed by such criticism.
“I have to say that I’ve never got into how the players should celebrate or what they should do,” he said. “I can see them being excited, scoring a goal in the World Cup. I wish in the next World Cup they score just as many.”
More than just a game
Through their success on the field, a number of USWNT players have chosen to voice their political and social ideals.
Notably Megan Rapinoe has made headlines for her critique of US President Donald Trump and for her leading role in the fight for equal pay in her sport.
“I respect their position,” Andonovski said of the USWNT players’ fight for social justice. “I respect their beliefs, I think it is positive.
“It reflects on the field. They are very determined, they are driven. Once they put the jersey on they put everything else aside. And they do whatever it takes to win the game. Their winning mentality is always ahead of everything.”