The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson for October 28, 2019

Happy championship Courage, Happy appointment Vlatko, Happy birthday baby girl. So much is going on! Links and Vlatko comments, too.

First off, Happy Birthday Evelyn! My baby girl is 20 today. I can’t believe it.

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OK, so the Courage won the championship and folks are talking “Dynasty.” John Halloran from The Equalizer lays out the case very nicely right here. Caitlin Murray also weighed in with a good story for Yahoo here.

I’m not ready to give them the dynasty tag just yet. I feel that’s a title the requires a longer body of work. The Showtime Lakers under Pat Riley, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, The Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s and even USC last decade (had to give a shoutout to my Trojans despite the scandal).

Maybe it’s just because North Carolina has become so so damn dominant in a relatively short window of time. The Courage has been THE team in the NWSL for the past two seasons. I love watching them and how they work together. Debinha is a joy. That long ball from Abby Dahlkemper to Sam Mewis for the goal in the championship match was like poetry.

While I sit here and think, well, I wish some of the other teams had more time together without the World Cup break and fewer injuries (And yes, I’m looking at the Reign) at the same time, the Courage were able to deal with the same circumstances and still win. So a hat tip to them. But still not ready to call it a dynasty.

I just hope “goodbye” doesn’t mean anything here. The league, indeed the world, is was better with McCall Zerboni in it.—%20McCall%20Zerboni%20(@McCaLL2)%20a%20href=

Other stuff to ponder:

Did we see the last of Sam Kerr in the NWSL? Yes, we did. That she won’t be playing in the W-League gave it away. The Guardian’s Samantha Lewis had a good column on it here.

Red Stars coach Rory Dames seemed to cast a slight bit of doubt on a move in his post game presser.

“It’s a pretty tight-knit group, and I don’t think anybody wants it to end the way it ended today. But, if Sam decides that she needs to go on to something else, she’ll always be a part of the family that we have here and we’ll wish her the best and hope that she has continued success. But I don’t think that’s where we’re at, just yet.”

But yes, she’s still gone. Get money, get paid Sam. You deserve it.

Oh and lastly, the worst kept secret in the history of women’s soccer becomes reality today: Vlatko Andonovski becomes the coach of the USWNT today. Some of his comments are below, if you’ couldn’t watch because of work.

On to the links!

This Week in Women’s Soccer

Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

Ok, first off y’all, there was so much really great content surrounding women’s soccer right now. This is just astounding. I covered the league’s first championship game remotely and there wasn’t anything close to the coverage this one got. Really, really encouraging to see. I’ve advocated a lot for coverage of women’s sports, so I’m so happy to see this. One more thing, and yes, I’m shouting: KEEP CLICKING ON LINKS TO SHOW THERE IS INTEREST OUT HERE! Buy subscriptions. Write emails.

For fun, I went back and found my story about the rally following the Thorns’ 2013 NWSL championship. Some 500 people showed up. On a weekday! And I think it’s around this time when I started to write more about women’s soccer.

Caitlin Murray on how Vlatko might be just what the USWNT needs, for Yahoo.

Stephanie Yang weighs in on Andonovski.

Jonathan Tannenwald has been all over the Andonovski story. Here’s his profile from a few days ago, and his story from the official announcement today.

All For XI’s By Kudzi Musarurwa examines how Andonovski overcame the Reign’s injuries. Hello, Bethany Balcer!

I love, love, love this piece on Sam Kerr by Claire Watkins for The Equalizer.

This was another one of my favorites this week: Stephanie Yang (again) on Crystal Dunn.

The great Meg Linehan on HAO as she says goodbye to the NWSL.

Steph Yang for the hat trick with a piece on Yuki!

Mitchell Northam for ProSoccerUSA profiles Debinha. Neil Morris does a nice job with his story on Debinha for the Equalizer here.

The Five at The IX: Vlatko Andonovski Intro!

Here is an excerpt from U.S. Soccer’s press conference today, naming Vlatko Andonovski the team’s next women’s national team coach.

Andonovski: “Thank you for the kind words. Carlos, thank you for your kind words as well. And I also want to thank you guys for giving me the chance and giving you an opportunity to coach the best team in the world, to work with some of the best best players. I’m extremely, extremely excited about the opportunity and I can’t wait to start. I’m just looking forward to the first day on the job with all the players and the staff. And Ernie as well for a chance and then believing in me.

Question: You have a big tournament, the Olympics, soon. Less than a year away. And wondering, how do you balance the short term goal to win that tournament with perhaps introducing new players? Or does that potentially come more after the Olympics?

Andonovski: First and foremost, I know that the Olympic tournament is about a year away, but most importantly for us is before that is to qualify for the tournament, and that’s just gonna be the first thing on the on the agenda. And we have a very, very experienced team with players that have been in the international stage and won big games, big tournaments, so we’re gonna rely heavily on them. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to expand the roster, it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to expand the pool and dip in the pool. We’re going to look at new players. And at the end, the ones that perform the best at training, and games ,will get a chance to be on the roster.

Question: Obviously, your background somewhat different than Jill’s just coming from Reign FC. I was wondering if you could talk about your approach to how you’re going to kind of manage those two worlds now having that background.

Andonovski: First as you mentioned, NWSL have been tremendous in my development. They’ve done they’ve done such a great job in creating a platform, not just for players, but for coaches like myself to develop and to improve, to improve their knowledge and understanding of the game. I think the NWSL is an incredible opportunity for the players to develop and it’s an incredible opportunity for me now being on this side to see how the development goes and how they do in their respective markets. I have already had numerous conversations with the coaches in the markets and we are all in agreement that we’re going to collaborate as much as possible. And ultimately we we are all going to fight and strive towards the same goal. Obviously, a first goal is for them to win games and win championships in the league. But we all gonna fight towards the ultimate goal, winning World Cups and Olympics.

Question: If somebody that said to you when you were running around as a player at Kemper Arena and the Spectrum back in the day that in 2019, you were going to get arguably the biggest coaching job in all of American soccer. Would you believe it?

Andonovski: Now, when I look back, I could have never believe that it was gonna happen. You know, 20 years ago now when I came to the country, the first goal for me is obviously to enjoy the game and play the game that I love. I never even thought that I’m going to coach. But once I started coaching, in the back of my mind, I don’t know if I thought about it all the time, but in the back of my mind, there was always that the thought that if the opportunity presents itself, I would love to coach his team. And I’m just glad that again, Carlos, Ernie and Kate believe in me and my qualities and gave me the opportunity to coach.

Question: For Kate: There has been a lot of conversation, U.S. soccer as a whole about America playing style and a certain way of doing things and has been in some ways on the men’s side, a little rigid, in terms of the tactical flexibility on the women’s side and building a team with all these great players, how much is that one element part of the conversation?

Markgraf: I think any time you’re evaluating a coach, you want to be able to identify their style of play, because you can really benchmark that and whether or not they were able to achieve that against different opponents. And I think the one thing that’s consistent, that when you watch any of Vlatko’s teams, and especially when some of his teams — He was a bit without some of his key players due to injuries or World Cup callups, you always saw a very consistent thing, as they like to have the ball. They’re very sound defensively and they attack creatively. Right? And they do that by trying to create overloads or positional advantages or trying to create different opportunities from various pockets of space that he’s identified from opponents and capitalizing on that on player movement or positional play. So I think that’s very consistent across the board. It’s just a matter of execution, how it looks, the strategies in which you employ in order to achieve your objective.”.

Question: Alex Morgan announced her pregnancy last week, and according to a source close to her, her goal is to return for the Olympics. Have either of you spoken with her about her situation and how will you go about handling that situation next spring?

Andonovski: So, I do reach out to Alex to congratulate her on the great news. But right now, for Alex most important thing is to have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. When she does that we’re going to do everything in our power and use the resources that the federation is providing, whether it is our high-performance director, staff, anything that we do, we can do on our side to help her get back for the Olympics.

Markgraf: I knew before it was announced that she was pregnant and like Vlatko said, I said congratulations. As a former player that gave birth twice during my career, I know that the first thing on your mind is having a healthy baby. So that is really where I positioned the conversation the entire time because I was so elated for her and very similar, and I echoes Vlatko’s statements and said Just let me know what I can do to help, you know, just stay healthy. Don’t worry about anything else than having a healthy baby.’ And then we’ll have a conversation. And in fact I texted her the name of my trainer that I used to come back after I gave birth to twins. So just get everybody the best chance to be their best, is what we try to do.

Question: (For Kate) It has been out there how this is a pretty popular choice for the players as well. How many other players did or did you have a lot of discussions with the current team about who they would like to see, or the type of coach they’d like to see?

Markgraf: I think player input is always very valuable, but not just player input, but past player input. And I think anytime you’re doing your due diligence on a candidate, you also want to triangulate that with other sources. So not only do I talk to current and former players that played for Vlatko or a bunch of different coaches, that perhaps were on my list. I also talked to coaches that have worked with them, or had been there for part of their coaching course or coaching, education, both domestically and internationally. And Ernie helped me make some of those calls. So we did that. And then also it’s just the results speak for themselves, when you watch them. When you see their style of play, when you see what their players can do. And if you can see development of individual players from the start of the season to an end of the season, that’s another data point. So you get to see from a triangular way the inputs that everyone’s giving to you. And you start to weigh them. And pretty soon that list got narrowed, and based off the interviews and that list got a little bit more narrow. So that is how I went about it.

Question: Vlatko what does it mean to you to know going in that you seemingly have the support of the team as the new head coach?

Andonovski: I mean, it’s amazing. I think it’s very important to know that the players are excited just as well as me. Like I said before, they’re some of the best players in the world, and to know that some of the best players in the world valued the knowledge, understanding and the job that I do, it’s extremely important for me, and I mean, I’m just humbled by some of the comments.

Question: When you talk about expanding the player pool, are you considering more international folks as well?

Andonovski: When we’re talking about expanding the player pool, we’re talking everywhere, I mean, anywhere we think that we can find a player to make this team better and help us win games, we’re going to we’re going to consider the player. Whether it’s the NWSL, Europe, anywhere in the world or college soccer, we’re going to look very thorough and research as well to make it possible.

Question: Back in the day, you coached two professional teams at once in the same year. Kansas City Comets and FC Kansas City in the NWSL. What sort of a challenge was that coaching two teams, maybe not necessarily at once, but in the same year. And how did that prepare you for this position?

Andonovski: The main challenge was just the workload throughout the whole year. It was it was intense. It was stressful. There was, you know, no day off. And I think that was a great challenge. And and set me up for the strength, no, not necessarily the strength, but for all the challenges that are going to be ahead of me. Now, I completely understand the challenges that re coming from coaching the national team are going to be greater, but I hope to get up to speed as soon as possible and get the job done.

Question: What is your view on the equal pay issue between the players and the federation? Carlos, what is the latest on the situation?

Andonovski: I mean, I’m very respectful of all the drive, of the push that the players have. In fact, that’s something that’s positive for me, because that will translate to the field. And I have no doubt in my mind once they step on the field that they’re going to be focused on on what is important at the time. Once they put the jersey on, they put everything else on the side and they’re focused on winning games, they’ve proved that in the past and like I said, I’ve no doubt in my mind that they’re going to do that in the future.

Carlos: Maybe I can add to that. So this is obviously a subject. you know, the subject is pending litigation. So I can’t get into a lot of details. But I will just reiterate what I’ve said in the past, which is the federation has always been committed to paying our players, our senior national team players, both our women and our men, fairly, equitably, regardless of gender. I’d say I was personally very disappointed that the mediation back in August wasn’t successful. A number of us on both sides spent a lot of time preparing for that, and at the at the meetings themselves. But notwithstanding that, I’d say we’re still very committed to resolving this. And, you know, in a fair way. But I think at the end of the day, you know, that requires compromise. You know, I think a lot of people forget that this federation is responsible for hundreds of players, girls and boys,at different levels. We’re responsible for our paralympians. We’re now have a beach women’s soccer team, futsal, and all with a relatively limited budget. We don’t have unlimited financial resources. And so we are constantly pressed, the board and I spent an hour and a half on Saturday talking about some important, difficult decisions we have to make on investment for the next budget. And these are choices we have to make. Notwithstanding that, we we want to pay our women and our men, as much as we can. And so that process continues. I hope, sincerely hope, we can we can now put this behind us soon enough. And so that when they when they when they go onto the field to play for Vlatko and wear the crest, that’s where their entire focus will be. And so I would say, give us some more time, but that’s where we’re heading, hopefully heading in that direction.

Question: The players often talk about how there’s a responsibility inherent in just being a member of this team. There’s a big responsibility in coaching this team, too, especially as the game along some other summer, other countries are making significant gains in women’s football. Does that change how you approach the way you want to coach a team, knowing you’re taking over from a coach who hadn’t lost a game in two cycles in a World Cup, That other teams are now getting better? Does that change anything about the way you come into this job?

Andonovski: Thank you for reminding me. Put some more pressure. But, yes, I mean, what what this team has done and what Jill has done is, I think, absolutely amazing. Jill was hired to win one World Cup and she won two. So just pushed the standards even higher and made the whole job to be even more stressful at times. I was very well aware of it, and I knew coming into it that, I mean, we’re going to go to win every game. I knew coming into it that it will be extremely important to win all the big tournaments. Now in terms of changing anything, I wouldn’t neccessarily say change, but I would say evolve. And the reason I’m saying that is because the game is evolving. This game has evolved from World Cup to World Cup, and also is evolving from year to year. So if we don’t follow those trends, all the other national teams are going to catch up with us. At the same time, I don’t want to just want to follow the trends. I want to set some of those trends. We want to be creative and we want to be leaders in those trends.

Question: I’m hearing a lot of rumors of an early camp?

Andonovski: Yes, the first camp actually starts in less than a week, the November camp and the two big games for us. But then the December camp is the next one, and that’s the camp that will help us identify some of the players that have potential to hopefully play on the national team soon, or at some point.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports QUEEN OF ALL MEDIA
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Annie Peterson