Tuesday, December 5, 2023

USWNT coaching search: Tony Gustavsson, Joe Monetemurro and Laura Harvey reportedly leading candidates

The head coaching search for the next U.S. women’s national team is finally narrowing down candidates. Multiple predictions and wish lists have been made for who should take over the team ahead of the Olympics. In a report by The Athletic, the federation has its shortlist down to three main candidates; Australia’s Tony Gustavsson, Juventus manager Joe Montemurro, and OL Reign’s Laura Harvey.

The USWNT kicked off their October window on Thursday with a scoreless draw against Colombia. The games will be the final matches for interim head coach Twila Kilgore, who was appointed to the role back in August by U.S. sporting director Matt Crocker. The decision came after former head coach Vlatko Andonovski left following the USWNT’s early exit from the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The squad is undefeated so far with Kilgore as head of the team. They won a pair of friendlies against South Africa in September. They’ll have a chance to extend that brief record for Kilgore a bit further this week against World Cup quarterfinalists Colombia. Afterward, the timeline to appoint a new head coach gets much shorter. 

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Crocker did provide a few updates last month in an interview during the U.S. men’s national team’s 4-0 win against Oman. He discussed the short timeline for the Olympics and what qualities the federation will be looking for in the next head coach. During the short postgame interview, he also revealed Kilgore’s timeline with the team and hinted at a deadline for the next coach

So here’s what we know about the USWNT coaching search so far:

Qualities the federation is looking for

Crocker has mentioned Kilgore will manage the team through the October friendlies with the goal of having the position filled ahead of the December friendlies. He stated that the person for the role will need to be a strong communicator, someone who can build relationships, as they will look for a candidate who can develop talent as well. He also didn’t shy away from some of the lessons learned during the USWNT’s 2023 World Cup elimination.

“If you look tactically, we already know that we have got a great group of athletic women and a huge pool to pick from,” he said.

“Things like our ability to transition really, really quickly is a key strength. Defensively, we’ve been really strong. I guess what we’d like to do is maybe to develop more [of a] possession-based style, and to have maybe a plan B. A coach that has got the ability to make in-game changes in key moments to be able to improve the performance of the team is going to be key.”

Player perspective

USWNT veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn is back in national team camps for the first time since April. The centerback has worked her way back into form from a foot injury that kept her out of the 2023 World Cup. She spoke to the media ahead of the Colombia matches and touched on the head coaching search.

“What’s exciting about a new coach is new ideas, new ways of playing the game,” she told media on Monday. “I’m really excited to see who this person is going to be and what they want our team to look like and how they’re able to tell us how to do that.”

Sauerbrunn also shared whether or not there’s a player preference on whether the next head coach is man, woman or American.

“I have no preference. I have been around long enough that I think I’ve probably experienced all of that. I’m just excited for whoever this person is to bring just their sense of soccer into this environment and to get the best out of this group.

“A new coach coming in I think would be very wise to keep what makes this team great, important,” she elaborated. “You think about mentality, you think about how great we are in transition moments, how great we are on set pieces. I think those things need to be consistent. Then I think with a new coach coming in, what they bring to our table is going to be the most important thing so, how they want us to play their tactics and then being able to apply it and teach us in a way that we can then execute it on the field.”

Narrowing down candidates

Things have tight-lipped about who is in the running for the next USWNT head coach, though now there are a few candidates that doesn’t mean they are the only ones, but the list has been narrowed down from several dozen as previously believed. While players aren’t part of the interviewing or hiring protocols, they have been informed with updates of the ongoing search despite not being directly involved.

“I have been involved a little bit, but just kind of updated periodically about where they are in the process,” said Sauerbrunn. “So I don’t know names of candidates or anything like that. But I was aware of when candidates were being flown in for interviews and that sort of thing. Knowing that we’re getting close and I think that they’ve got a few candidates that they’re very excited about. But for the most part, it’s just been process and knowing where we are in the process.”

There has been an exorbitant amount of predictions made on who should be in the running for the U.S. job, but the federation is coming up against a short timeline, multiple programs vetting for their own coaches, and candidates settling into their positions. 

England’s Sarina Weigman has been viewed as the must-get top target, but she and the FA have made it clear she’s comfortable where she is, under contract till 2025, and was just named Olympic manager for team Great Britain. The options for a coach will continue to slim as the Olympics get closer and other top clubs look for managers.

What’s next

The team will face Colombia on Sunday and wrap up the two-game series. Afterward, multiple players will return to NWSL Playoffs with the semifinals set for Nov. 5. The NWSL Championship will conclude the NWSL season on Nov. 11, and the USWNT will close out their calendar year with a two-game series against China starting Dec. 2 with a new head coach in place.

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