Vlatko Andonovski, the head coach of the United States women’s national soccer team, has resigned, the U.S. Soccer Federation confirmed Thursday, ending a relatively tumultuous tenure managing what was once the world’s pre-eminent team.
Andonovski’s four-year contract was scheduled to expire at the end of the year. U.S. Soccer announced Thursday that Twila Kilgore, an assistant coach with the women’s national team, will take over as interim coach. Kilgore was previously an assistant coach of the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League for two years.
The federation hopes to have a permanent replacement named by the end of the year in order to begin preparations for next summer’s Paris Olympics.
Andonovski’s resignation was not unexpected. The United States greatly underperformed at this year’s Women’s World Cup after winning the previous two tournaments. The team had its earliest elimination in tournament history after losing a penalty shootout to rival Sweden in the round of 16. The United States scored only four goals in a World Cup it entered as one of the favorites, beating only one of its four opponents, Vietnam, and drawing with the Netherlands and Portugal during the group stage.
“It’s been the honor of my life to coach the talented, hard-working players of the U.S.W.N.T. for the past four years,” Andonovski said in a news release. “While we are all disappointed by the outcome at this year’s World Cup, I am immensely proud of the progress this team has made, the support they’ve shown for each other, and the inspiration they’ve provided for players around the world.”
Andonovski, 46, had been a head coach in the N.W.S.L. for seven years before U.S. Soccer announced his hiring in October 2019. His predecessor, Jill Ellis, stepped down after five years with the team after the United States won the 2019 Women’s World Cup, making Ellis the first coach to win back-to-back Women’s World Cups.
Andonovski won the first 16 games he coached, including titles in 2020 at the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament and the SheBelieves Cup. The coronavirus pandemic struck six months into Andonovski’s tenure, pushing the Tokyo Olympics back a year to 2021 and complicating his first two years on the job. Once the Games came around, the United States entered as favorites but won only a bronze medal.
As the World Cup began, the United States’ ability to capture an elusive three-peat — no team has won three titles in a row since the tournament’s inception in 1991 — was called into question almost immediately. The Americans beat Vietnam in their opening game, but by a comparatively modest 3-0 margin, nothing like the 13-0 romp over Thailand that opened their 2019 title run. The Americans would score only once more, on a header from Lindsey Horan that evened the score with the Netherlands, 1-1.
A scoreless tie with Portugal was enough for the United States to advance but not win its group, spurring the need for a “Belief” social media campaign heading into the round of 16 and opening the national team up to criticism from its own, with former players such as Tobin Heath and Carli Lloyd voicing dissatisfaction with the team’s style of play.
Andonovski was criticized for his tactical decision-making, including his decisions on substitutes. He also had star players like Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz playing different roles than they had in the past, with mixed results. Exciting newcomers like Ashley Sanchez and 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson barely played.
In the end, a millimeter was the threshold to let Sweden advance and stop the United States — and Andonovski — miles short of expectations.