Vlatko Andonovski has officially taken the reins as the new head coach of the U.S. women’s soccer team.
Here’s what you should know about Andonovski’s career and potential:
— Andonovski, 43, was born in Skopje, North Macedonia, which at the time was part of Yugoslavia. He played professionally in Europe for six seasons, and when he emigrated to the United States, he played pro indoor soccer starting in 2000. He spent most of his career here with the Kansas City Comets, with stops at the California Cougars (based in Stockton) and the Philadelphia Kixx.
— For the last two years, Andonovski has been the manager of Reign FC, formerly of Seattle and now of Tacoma, Wash. The Reign have made the playoffs in both seasons, finishing in 3rd place last year and 4th this year.
— He has been the leading candidate to be Jill Ellis’ successor since well before she announced in late July that she would step down at the end of October. Heading into Reign FC’s playoff game against the North Carolina Courage this past Sunday, he said that “as of now,” reports of a done deal were not true. But after the game, a season-ending 4-1 loss, he admitted he had spoken to U.S. Soccer and he would now focus on further talks.
— His time in Philadelphia lasted only a few months. Andonovski played 13 games as a defender for the Kixx in the 2005-06 season after the Cougars traded him here on Dec. 29, 2005. He recorded 2 goals and 7 assists in that span.
— Before moving to Cascadia, he managed FC Kansas City from 2013 (when the NWSL launched) through 2017. His teams made the playoffs in ’13, ’14 and ’15, winning championships in the last two of those years.
— Kansas City’s squad was initially built with many players from the former Philadelphia Independence, including Lauren Holiday, Amy Rodriguez, Pottstown native Nicole Barnhart and Havertown native Sinead Farrelly. Becky Sauerbrunn was the captain, and Heather O’Reilly also played there for a while.
— Andonovski moved to Seattle when FC Kansas City was disbanded by the NWSL because of poor ownership at the end of the 2017 season. FCKC was replaced in the league by the Utah Royals, run by MLS’ Real Salt Lake. Utah got the right to Kansas City’s players, and hired Laura Harvey, Andonovski’s predecessor at the Reign, as manager.
— Coincidentally, Andonovski and Harvey were two of the finalists to replace Ellis.
— Andonovski managed FCKC and the Comets, by then renamed the Missouri Comets, concurrently from 2013-16. The seasons didn’t overlap since the indoor league played (and still plays) in the winter. He first joined the Comets coaching staff as an assistant in 2010. His resume also includes coaching some girls’ youth teams in the Kansas City region.
— For all that Andonovski has done in the club game, he has never been a national team coach or assistant. But he has been a top candidate for the U.S. job since even before Jill Ellis was hired in 2014, given his track record of success on the field and in developing young players.
— His latest development success story is Bethany Balcer. The rookie from NAIA school Spring Arbor (Michigan) University played 1,700 minutes this season, starting in 19 of her 24 appearances and recording 6 goals and 2 assists.
— Andonovski has also shown a deft touch with managing international stars. In his time at the Reign, he has coached U.S. stars Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long; England’s Jodie Taylor; Australia’s Lydia Wiliams, Steph Catley and Elise Kellond-Knight; Japan’s Nahomi Kawasumi (now at Sky Blue FC) and Rumi Utsugi; Canada’s Adriana Leon; and Wales’ Jessica Fishlock.
— His candidacy to get the U.S. job has been endorsed by three players on this year’s World Cup-winning squad: Long, Sauerbrunn and Emily Sonnett (of the rival Portland Thorns). North Carolina Courage manager Paul Riley (who coached the Independence back in the day) has also backed Andonovski for the job. The two men have been friends for years, and took the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Pro License coaching course together last year.
-- Megan Rapinoe said this to the Washington Post earlier this year about Andonovski: “One of the best things about him is his tactical flexibility and understanding of the game ... He really is not just trying to play one specific style, and sort of live and die by that. He wants to win the games and be successful. He is really good at assessing the team and who is available and then putting a game plan together."