USA coach Vlatko Andonovski resigns after World Cup exit: ESPN sources

ByJeff Carlisle ESPN logo
Thursday, August 17, 2023

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

An announcement from the U.S. Soccer Federation confirming Andonovski's exit is expected on Thursday.

Sources added that current assistant coach Twila Kilgore is likely to be appointed as interim coach for two friendlies against South Africa on Sept. 21 and Sept. 24, though that deal has yet to be finalized.

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 by 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 appeared to be 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 Sjblom.

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

Despite his only previous managerial experience coming at the 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 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.

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 a 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 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 2022 bolstered the side, but not in the manner expected.

Instead of shoring up a midfield that struggled, 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 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, particularly his unwillingness to use his bench.

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 goal scoring remained a problem -- the U.S. scored just four goals in four games -- and the defending champs were eliminated via penalties.

Regarding 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.