USA coach Andonovski steps down after World Cup exit – sources

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Vlatko Andonovski has stepped down as manager of the U.S. women’s national team, sources have confirmed to ESPN.

An announcement from the U.S. Soccer Federation confirming Andonovski’s exit is expected on Thursday. Sources added that an interim coach is likely to be in charge for two friendlies against South Africa on Sept. 21 and Sept. 24.

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Soccer outlet 90min first reported the news that Andonovski was set to resign.

The move comes in the wake of the U.S. team’s elimination at the hands of Sweden in the round of 16 at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, the team’s earliest exit from the competition in its history.

Combined with a lackluster bronze medal finish at the Tokyo Olympics, there was no way forward for Andonovski.

While his record with the U.S. was 51-5-9, his record in major tournaments was just 3-2-5 (games decided by penalties are officially recorded as draws).

Sources told ESPN that the U.S. Soccer Federation leadership spent the weeks since the USWNT’s elimination speaking with players, coaches, staff and Andonovski.

That effort was led by USSF sporting director Matt Crocker, who was hired earlier this year. Ultimately, both parties decided that it was best that Andonovski, whose contract was set to run until the end of 2023, wouldn’t return.

The review of the U.S. women’s team program remains ongoing, sources added, including discussions over USWNT general manager Kate Markgraf’s role moving forward.

A source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN that Andonovski is a candidate for the manager’s job at Kansas City Current. The NWSL club is currently being led by interim manager Caroline Sjöblom.

Andonovski, 46, was hired by U.S. Soccer in 2019, following the resignation of two-time World Cup-winning manager Jill Ellis.

Despite the fact that his only previous managerial experience came at club level, both indoors with the Missouri Comets and later with the FC Kansas City and Reign FC (now OL Reign) in the NWSL, Andonovski had the support of veteran players, who lauded his player-management skills.

But cracks first began to appear at the Tokyo Olympics, with the U.S. looking well short of the side that prevailed at the 2019 World Cup two years earlier.

At the time, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a subdued atmosphere at the Olympics, was cited as one reason for the USWNT’s lackluster performance, even as it claimed the bronze medal. As a result, Andonovski made the decision to bring in younger players.

The U.S. continued to rack up wins in friendlies, but against top sides the team struggled. Late in 2022, the USWNT lost consecutive matches to England, Spain and Germany, its first such losing streak in 29 years.

The U.S. rebounded in 2023 to claim the SheBelieves Cup against Brazil, Canada and Japan, but concerns about the team’s midfield continued.

The U.S. also endured an unfortunate spate of injuries that ruled out the likes of Catarina Macario, Mallory Swanson, Sam Mewis and Becky Sauerbrunn. The return of Julie Ertz to the team after she gave birth to her son Madden in August of 2022 bolstered the side, but not in the manner expected.

Instead of shoring up a midfield that was struggling, Sauerbrunn’s injury meant that Ertz was forced to move to the backline. All told, the U.S. roster saw 14 of the 23 spots taken up by players making their Women’s World Cup debut.

Once the World Cup started, Andonovski faced criticism for his lineups and inability to make in-game adjustments. In particular, his unwillingness to use his bench was baffling.

The USWNT opened the World Cup with a 3-0 win over Vietnam, but draws against the Netherlands and Portugal saw the U.S. finish second in Group E.

The U.S. was nearly eliminated when a shot from Portugal substitute Ana Capeta hit the post late in the 0-0 draw.

The Americans delivered a much-improved performance in the round of 16 against Sweden, but goalscoring remained a problem — the U.S. scored just four goals in four games — and the defending champs were eliminated via penalties.

In terms of Andonovski’s replacement, the USSF will need to act quickly, with the 2024 Olympics set to take place in Paris in less than a year.

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