USWNT: Vlatko Andonovski leading the post-Jill Ellis era

On Tuesday, the USWNT beat Haiti 4-0 in Vlatko Andonovski’s first game as head coach. The post-Jill Ellis era has gotten off to a positive start.

The U.S. Women’s National Team delivered a shockingly powerful career-opener for new head coach Vlatko Andonovski on January 28. They beat Haiti 4-0 in their initial CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying game in Houston.

Andonovski definitely offers an effectively communicated game plan to the players. Some of his tactics are familiar to the team veterans. He hasn’t significantly changed the 4-3-3 that former head coach Jill Ellis implemented on her way to winning the FIFA World Cup in the summer.

His style is very familiar to superstar forward Megan Rapinoe. He was her coach with Reign FC. And Rapinoe responded well when Andonovski called on her in the 62nd minute. She immediately put the USWNT steamroller in high gear, assisting on one of the four goals with a vicious corner.

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All in all, the USWNT produced 23 shots to Haiti’s three. They finished with 63% possession, 434 passes to 205. The U.S. were in full control without ever being fully dominant, not like in previous outings.

They were also fortunate to hold a one-goal lead early on. Haiti scored a seemingly perfectly decent equalizer in the 19th minute. The goal was seemingly ruled out for offside despite coming from a corner. There was no sign of a push, no foul, just a clean header into from an unmarked Haiti attacker. And yet it was chalked off.

The USWNT rode their luck initially but eventually exploded into this CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament with a maddening, powerful fury for a reason.

It was a positive start to life as head coach for Andonovski. Succeeding Ellis, one of the greatest coaches in women’s soccer history, was never going to be easy, so getting off to a fast start is critical. This victory, while a frustrating performance at times, was the quick win that Andonovski needed.

And Andonovski will have the chance to better his predecessor in his first year as head coach. The bitter failure to win a medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics has not cleared from the USWNT’s palate. In that event, Sweden eliminated USA in the quarter-finals on penalties. They made the final and won the silver medal, leaving the USWNT to ponder what could — and perhaps should — have been.

Next: Three things to watch for: USMNT vs. Costa Rica

The post-Ellis era was never going to be easy for fhe USWNT, despite their outrageous talent. But Andonovski and his team made a positive start to life without Ellis, and for now, that is all you can ask for.

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