USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski making tweaks to improve world champions

US Women’s National Team coach Vlatko Andonovski has only been in the job for two games, but he’s already stamping his authority on the world champions.

Following a seasoned coach such as Jill Ellis is never an easy job to fill. Andonvoski, 43, comes to U.S. Soccer after spending seven years as a head coach in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), five with FC Kansas City (2013-2017) and two with Reign FC (2017-2018).

After Sunday’s 6-0 victory against Costa Rica, Andonovski was asked whether he aims to put a stamp on this team that would be different than how Jill Ellis had the team playing.

“We want to tweak things because we want to stay ahead of the teams who are close to us and who are catching up,” said Andonovski.

While Andonovski didn’t go into details about the tweaks he’s made to this team so far, it’s still early days. So far, though, the fact that Carli Lloyd has started both games is encouraging instead of being on the bench (she scored in the fourth minute on Sunday, and in the sixth minute on Thursday against Sweden). So too is the way he gave first starts on Sunday night to defenders Margaret Purce and Alana Cook.

Other tweaks that Andonovski has made so far include giving his midfielders more license to make penetrating runs in midfield. Sometimes under Ellis, the midfield shape appeared too rigid where players seemed to be reluctant to make darting runs.

No offense to Costa Rica, but it’s difficult to judge how well a team is playing under a new coach when it’s against inferior opposition. But judging by the performance in Jacksonville Sunday night, the women are playing with a sense of energy and freedom that is a joy to watch.

“[It’s been] one of the best experiences a coach can have,” Andonovski said about working with this team so far. “I’m flattered by the opportunity. It’s been amazing. Every time I step on the field, whether it’s a game or training session, I learn more about them. I’m excited about working with players like that.”

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