There’s gloom surrounding the U.S. women’s national team (USWNT), partly because of the loss to Sweden in the World Cup. It’s the worst finish for a USWNT at any significant competition. The other gloom is primarily because of the coaching performance in the tournament.
Let’s say about an 80/20 split.
Conversations have been ongoing about the state of the program and more importantly, who is going to be at the helm. Even before Vlatko Andonovski officially resigned as head coach of the USWNT, the debates about who should replace him already started.
Players are now starting to speak out against Andonovski and his coaching scheme at the World Cup.
Midfielder Lindsey Horan on a podcast with former USWNT team members Tobin Heath and Christen Press spoke to the issues the team faced in the tournament.
“The game against Sweden, I don’t think we were necessarily set up to play the way that we played. That was just us finally coming together and being like, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ And then it worked and then it’s like, ‘OK, keep doing it.’ Could that have happened earlier? Maybe. It’s a really tough one.”Lindsey Horan, 8/22/23
So in this final piece for our coverage of the Women’s World Cup, it’s time to take a look at the four possible coaching candidates who would be best suited to take over the helm of the USWNT.
While Vlatko only had club experience, Laura Harvey has clubs plus international time on her resume. The USWNT NEEDS that global experience and she’s the only NWSL coach with it to her name. She’s currently the coach of the OL Reign (want to guess who else was too?) but she was also a leading name in the 2019 search.
Harvey has a long and winding résumé, serving as an assistant coach for England’s U-17, U-19, and U-23 teams, as well as the U.S. U-20 squad. She spent more time in England at the club level, first as an assistant, then as the manager at Arsenal, before moving over to the NWSL. The international experience continues: she even was part of the Tokyo Olympics coaching staff as an assistant for Andonovski.
Oh by the way, she’s a three-time NWSL coach of the year AND she also won six trophies while coaching at Arsenal.
Long story short: she would be the ideal candidate.
Her players, including Megan Rapinoe, have spoken highly of her. Harvey has been known to empower individual players, making savvy positional changes that showcase athletes in different ways. Now granted, she hasn’t quite yet hit the same level of experience but if she wants the job, it’s hers to lose.
Another great club manager can be found in Chelsea’s current manager Emma Hayes. She’s had success with her team in the Women’s Super League. Her name was also floated around as a possible coach for England if Sarina Wiegman wasn’t the one in that position.
The 46-year-old has managed some of the best at Chelsea. She’s coached Australia’s Sam Kerr, England phenom Lauren James, Canada’s Jessie Flemming, and starting this summer, U.S. players Catarina Macario and Mia Fishel. That’s quite the roster to work with and boy does she manage her ladies well.
Hayes is also familiar with the U.S. system. She coached at the collegiate level and for the Chicago Red Stars from 2008 to 2010. The USL and NWSL to USWNT pipeline aren’t foreign to her. But having shown no signs of wanting to leave before: Would Hayes even be interested in coming to the U.S. to coach?
This would be an incredibly natural hire for the USWNT. The current manager of Australia was also a longtime assistant coach for the U.S. under two separate head coaches. He was a key piece in creating the set-piece plays that helped Carli Lloyd score twice during the 2015 World Cup final.
So you could say he’s familiar.
His name already has been bandied around after Australia’s semifinal loss to replace Andonovski. The 49-year-old Matildas’ manager has constructed a system that works best for his talent, not making his talent try and fit his program. Under Gustavsson, Australia was lethal on the counter in their semifinal game, using a dangerous attack headed up by Kerr.
His familiarity with the USWNT, coupled with his major tournament success as a manager, makes him an appealing choice for the vacancy. Familiarity with the system would be a huge plus for the current USWNT staff.
An interesting left-field choice would be (soon) former Ukraine national team coach Lluís Cortés. However, he is better remembered for delivering FC Barcelona Femení their first Champions League crown in 2021.
Yes, he’s THAT guy.
He took the Barcelona squad, including Alexia Putellas, to be a dominant force in European soccer. There are a couple of things that the USWNT is going to need moving forward. They need to balance technical skill with innate athletic ability and Cortés’ experience with the nuances of flowing attacking football is the right person to have control over it.
Cortés has international experience and club experience that will help the USWNT develop.
It’s not happening but fans can dream, right?
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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Cornaga