Vlatko Andonovski speaks at a press conference where he was introduced as the U.S. Women's National Team head coach on Oct. 28, 2019 in New York City.
As legacies go, Vlatko Andonovski has inherited a significant one.
U.S. Soccer officially introduced Andonovski Monday as the new head coach of the U.S. women’s national team, a program that is the two-time defending World Cup champion. As if that wasn’t enough pressure, Andonovski will be taking over for Jill Ellis, the winningest coach in women’s national team history.
But if Andonovski is feeling any pressure, he wasn’t showing it at his introductory press conference. In fact, the emotions he expressed most were gratitude and excitement for the challenge ahead.
“I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to coach the best team in the world, to work with some of the best players,” Andonovski said. “I’m extremely excited about the opportunity, and I can’t wait to start. I’m just looking forward to the first day on the field.”
For Andonovski, that first opportunity will come very quickly as the U.S. women host a pair of friendlies in November, first against Sweden in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 7. But that is prelude to the first big test of Andonovski’s national team career, choosing the roster that will compete in the Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament, and, assuming that goes as expected, leading the U.S. in pursuit of a sixth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.
“I know the Olympic tournament is about a year away, but most importantly for us is before that, is to qualify for the tournament,” Andonovski said. “And that’s going to be our first thing on the agenda. And we have a very experienced team. We have players that have been on the international stage, that have won big games, big tournaments, so we’re going to rely heavily on them.”
Andonovski will already be familiar with the U.S. player pool, both present and future, having served as head coach for the past seven years in the National Women’s Soccer League, most recently with Reign FC in 2018 and 2019. He is a two-time NWSL Coach of the Year, including this past campaign.
The 43-year-old was born in Yugoslavia in modern-day Macedonia. He played six seasons as a pro in the Macedonian Football League and moved to the U.S. in 2000 to play for the Wichita Wings in the Major Indoor Soccer League.