Vlatko Andonovski makes his debut as coach of the reigning Women’s World Cup champion US squad on Thursday when he guides the Americans against Sweden at Columbus, Ohio.
The 43-year-old native of North Macedonia was named last week to replace Jill Ellis, the English-born coach who steered the US team to two consecutive Women’s World Cup titles before stepping down last month after a US victory tour.
The Americans beat Sweden 2-0 in group stage play at this year’s World Cup in France, improving to 22-6 with 11 drawn against the European squad.
Andonovski guides a squad missing five players from the unit that won the world crown in France with injuries sidelining defenders Kelley O’Hara, Ali Krieger, Crystal Dunn and Tierna Davidson as well as forward Megan Rapinoe.
Also, forward Alex Morgan is absent after announcing she is pregnant with her first child.
The US women will feature 17 players from the Women’s World Cup roster as well as three first-time hopefuls – goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, defender Alana Cook who plays for Paris Saint-Germain’s women’s team and defender Imani Dorsey.
“I want to make sure that everyone on the World Cup team has an opportunity to work with me and give me an opportunity to see them and see what stage of their game they’re at right now,” Andonovski said.
“But at the same time, I think it’s crucial that we give a chance to players that have done well for their pro teams and deserve to have a good look and a solid evaluation in the national team environment.
“We have quite a few injured players from the World Cup team and they need to rest and get healthy.
“Also, we wanted to add players that weren’t at the World Cup because the main goal from the start is to grow the player pool.”
Andonovski has spent seven seasons as a coach in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), winning two crowns in five seasons with Kansas City before spending the past two campaigns guiding the Seattle-area Reign FC. He was named NWSL Coach of the Year in 2013 and this year.