- The USWNT is four months away from competing for gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
- The world’s best team is still adjusting to playing under Vlatko Andonovski, who was named the USWNT head coach in October of 2019.
- Insider spoke with strikers Carli Lloyd and Christen Press and defender Abby Dahlkemper about the differences between playing under Andonovski and two-time World Cup-winning head coach Jill Ellis.
- Press said she enjoys “a bit of a freedom” playing for Andonovski compared to the “very regimented system” Ellis adhered to, while Dahlkemper noted that she’s felt a “positive… shift in dynamic.”
- Lloyd, meanwhile, said that the Macedonian head coach “has come in and always injected confidence in all the players” and that he “respects who I am as a person and a player.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
With just four months standing between the US Women’s National Team and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the world’s best team is rocking a 30-game undefeated streak.
Despite its continued success on the field, a lot has changed for the defending World Cup champions over the past few months – including the coach at the front of the bench.
Vlatko Andonovski assumed the national team’s head coaching position in October, and while playing under a new leader and within a new system has been an adjustment for the players, many of the USWNT’s brightest stars say the shift has been a positive one.
Insider spoke with three of the biggest names on the USWNT roster – strikers Carli Lloyd and Christen Press and defender Abby Dahlkemper – about acclimating to Andonovski’s style.
After a tough experience at the 2019 World Cup, Carli Lloyd has embraced the new coach with open arms.
Lloyd has not been shy about her differences of opinion with former USWNT head coach Jill Ellis, so its little surprise that she’s been satisfied with the team’s coaching change.
On an episode of ESPN’s ‘Laughter Permitted’ podcast that first aired in the fall, the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year told host Julie Foudy that she was deeply dissatisfied with her playing time during the USWNT’s seven-game World Cup stretch in France over the summer. At the time, she had gone as far as to describe the team’s historic run as “absolutely the worst time of my life.”
Lloyd’s candid conversation with Foudy – a former USWNT star herself – came after Ellis announced her retirement but before Andonovski was announced as her replacement. When Foudy asked what the 37-year-old striker was looking for in the team’s next playcaller, Lloyd said she hoped they would be someone who “values me, respects me, [and] wants me part of the Olympic plans.”
Andonovski has lived up to that standard in spades, according to Lloyd, who told Insider “it’s a great feeling knowing that a coach like him respects who I am as a person and a player.”
While promoting her Secret Deodorant ad that aired during Super Bowl LIV, Lloyd said that she’s “having more fun playing now than I ever have in my career.”
“Part of that is due to the fact that I’ve gained more experience and I’ve become a better player and a better thinker on the field,” Lloyd added. “Another part of that is having a coach like Vlatko [Andonovski] who has come in and always injected confidence in all the players.”
Players were generally fond of Andonovski back when he was coaching national team stars like Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long for the NWSL’s Seattle Reign. But Lloyd has personally been thriving on the field ever since she got her first taste of life under Andonovski back in November.
Since the Macedonian soccer mastermind took over the helm, Lloyd has started all but two of the USWNT’s nine games and registered four goals and two assists in that span.
“[Andonovski] wants to individually develop [players] and improve their game and wants to make our team better,” Lloyd said. “He’s got an old-school approach of outworking the opponents and wanting to shut the opponents down and wanting to play good football, but also rewarding those who are performing and who are giving their 100% effort every single day in training, and that’s what you want. That’s how it should be.”
Striker Christen Press has also thrived in Andonovski’s USWNT system.
Press started in two of her four World Cup appearances last summer and scored one goal through 179 minutes on the pitch. But since Andonovski took over, the crafty 31-year-old has reached new heights on the USWNT’s front line.
Press earned Concacaf Golden Ball honours after recording five goals and an assist through the USWNT’s five Olympic qualifying matches. She recorded a beautiful, curling goal against England during the team’s first SheBelieves Cup match and added an assist in her 26-minute stint against Spain.
After the team’s 1-0 win Sunday, the Utah Royals star credited Andonovski’s “grey area in his tactics of decision making” with her recent uptick in offensive production.
“With Jill, we were in a very regimented system which provided a lot of clarity for players but didn’t necessarily allow everyone’s individual talents to shine,” Press said. “Some people absolutely but others less, so I feel there’s a bit of a freedom now with less thinking about what you should be doing and more just doing what you want.”
The back line is still adjusting to Andonovski’s style, but Abby Dahlkemper says “the whole team is on board.”
Not only is the USWNT undefeated since Andonovski became head coach, but in that nine-game span, the red, white, and blue’s defence has given up just two goals – both of which came against Sweden in Andonovski’s debut.
While promoting her partnership with Massage Envy for its Acne Facial Series powered by Proactiv, Dahlkemper – who started on the back line in all seven of the United States’ 2019 World Cup matches – said there’s “been a shift in dynamic” since Andonovski’s tenure began.
“But I think it’s positive. We had a change at an in-between time so we didn’t have that much time to get all of our ducks in a row before we had to go out and try to qualify for the Olympics,” Dahlkemper added. “So credit to Vlatko [Andonovski] and the staff and the players and the team for being able to adjust on the fly and all trying to get on the same page as soon as possible.”
Still, Dahlkemper said the USWNT continues to adjust to Andonovski’s expectations and approach to the game. When Insider asked her what the squad needs to do in the lead-up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, she immediately suggested “implementing the style of play that Vlatko [Andonovski] wants.”
“I think it’s great, it’s just different from what we’re used to from the past,” Dahlkemper said of Andonovski’s methodology. “I think that being able to shift into how he sees us playing and how he sees us being the most successful is important… Just fine-tuning every detail before we head to Tokyo.”
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