USWNT: Vlatko Andonovski News Round-Up

On Monday, October 28th, U.S. Soccer officially announced that then-current Reign FC head coach, Vlatko Andonovski, would be the next head coach of the United States Women’s National Team. Here’s a summary and round-up of useful articles about Andonovski and his hiring.The “introductory press conference” was broadcast live via YouTube and Twitter.  The YouTube version is embedded below.

The video is definitely worth watching, especially for Kate Markgraf’s description of the hiring process in her statement and answers.

In addition to being Andonovski’s introduction as USWNT, this was also our first real look into how Markgraf would handle herself in the nascent role of general manager for the USWNT.  Given her on-air television experience, it is no surprise that she came across as polished and knowledgeable.  But, her performance during the press conference was certainly reassuring.

At this point in time, having Markgraf and Andonovski in charge of the USWNT is about the best possible scenario, as they are (1) both clearly competent enough for their positions and (2) both seem clearly committed to advancing the USWNT’s competitiveness through the fundamentals of a solid defense, possession, and creativity.

Introductory Press Conference (YouTube)

Notables

  • Markgraf interviewed an unspecified number of candidates via phone interviews
  • From that list, two finalists were identified: Andonovski and likely (but not officially confirmed) Laura Harvey (Utah Royals head coach)
  • The two finalists were interviewed in Chicago
  • The final interview process was in front of the selection committee
  • That committee consisted of Markgraf, plus Earnie Stewart, her immediate superior; Cindy Parlow Cone,  techincal expert; and Barry Pauwels, U.S. Soccer Director of Coach Education.
    • Each candidate made a presentation, based on “a couple different questions” and were evaluated on “different domains that make a coach successful.” “Some of those are technical, tactical questions. Some of those are managerial experience, success records.” (quoting Markgraf)
    • The final candidates were graded on those different domains and an aggregate score was compiled.
    • They were also judged on their presentation (communication skills)
    • There was also a “spontaneous … Q&A section tactically when we asked them to break down a game”
    • Andonovski was the unanimous choice of the selection committee
  • Markgraf:  “[T]he one thing that is consistent, when you watch any of Vlatko’s teams… you always saw a very consistent thing is that they like to have the ball, they’re very sound defensively, and they attack creatively”
  • One might read between the lines and interpret Markgraf’s comments regarding style of play as being opposite of Greg Berhalter’s controversial (and frankly disastrous) rigid system for the USMNT (Inquirer.com, SBISoccer.com)
  • Markgraf also talked to numerous past and current players, as well as other coaches, whether or not they played for or worked with Andonovski
  • Public confirmation of a USWNT “identification” camp in December
  • Markgraf: Andonovski is honest/direct in telling players what they need to do to improve
  • Contract Term: Through the 2023 Women’s World Cup (Grant Wahl – Twitter)
  • Andonovski’s hiring was made official (contracts signed) “less than two days” before the press conference.
  • Last Name Pronunciation: Ann-DON-ahv-skee (per U.S. Soccer)

For those familiar with Andonovski, the official U.S. Soccer press release (Vlatko Andonovski Named Head Coach Of U.S. Women’s National Team) does not have much useful information.  But, Markgraf’s quote as to why Andonovski was hired is noteworthy:

“From the moment I came aboard, the main focus has been on hiring a new U.S. Women’s National Team coach,” said U.S. Women’s National Team general manager Markgraf, who lead the coaching search. “We identified the qualities we thought were most important for this unique position, 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. I know all the players and staff are excited to begin this new chapter in Women’s National Team history with him and start the important work towards qualifying for the Olympics.”


ESPN: How Vlatko Andonovski made a name for himself in the NWSL – and likely beyond – Graham Hays

If you read one background article on Andonovski, this one by Graham Hays is the one to read, as it touches on Andonovski’s early life back in North Macedonia, as well as his competency as a women’s soccer coach, with multiple quotes.  A sampler:

“Just off the first phone call, the conversations that we had you, could tell he had done his homework,” former FC Kansas City defender Leigh Ann Brown said. “Obviously, I Googled him and looked everything up. But if you didn’t know those things, you would have no idea he didn’t have prior experience with [coaching] women at our level. He had done his homework.

 

Megan Rapinoe recently described her club coach as something close to a tactical savant, suggesting last week that even an NWSL setting doesn’t fully allow him to “put on his full arsenal of what he knows.” At the heart of that is a robust pragmatism. Total soccer might be the ideal, an attacking, possession style predicated on rock-solid defending, but with this season’s injury-ravaged Reign only the most recent example, he adjusts to circumstances.

All of which is only as valuable as Andonovski’s ability to communicate those tactics and preparations to players. Here again, Rapinoe cited his ability to connect with every level of the depth chart, to “meet them where they’re at.”


ESPN: USWNT players revved and ready for new era with Vlatko Andonovski at the helm – Graham Hays

This was written after the press conference and includes some details from it, as well as additional details.

Consistent but not dogmatic. Andonovski isn’t going to fit the U.S. pegs into a particular set of holes. He isn’t wedded to a particular formation. His teams generally play aesthetically pleasing, possession-oriented, attacking soccer because that is also often the best way to control the game and win. But not always. And he’s good with that.

“One of the great things with him, when people say what kind of style did you play, well, yeah, we liked to keep the ball,” said Leigh Ann Brown, who played on both his title-winning teams with FC Kansas City. “But he was smart enough to know if we win the ball in transition and they have a high line, absolutely we’re going direct. That’s how we’re going to put the ball in the back of the net. Because he had such knowledge for the game and so much prep work was done, no matter who we played, he had almost figured it out already.”


The Guardian: Vlatko Andonovski could be just what the USA women need to stay on top – Caitlin Murray

A general write-up.  Here’s a notable anecdote.

Andonovski can be intense as a coach. His former staff at FC Kansas City tell stories about secretly moving Andonovski’s perfectly placed cones for drills to drive him mad – something Andonovski always noticed and fixed, frustrated with himself for his errors. When he interviewed for the job, he overwhelmed the owners with how much research he had prepared.


SBNation: Everything you need to know about Vlatko Andonovski, the USWNT’s new head coach – Kim Cauley

A solid summary that touches on his tactical and formation flexibility.


The Philadelphia Inquirer: Who is Vlatko Andonovski? Here’s what to know about the next USWNT coach – Jonathan Tannenwald

Another good summary of Andonovski.  (potential paywall)


Additional Coverage: