After three candidates were considered, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati announced today that Jill Ellis will take the reigns as the eighth head coach of the U.S. WNT.
Ellis will officially step down from her position as U.S. Soccer’s Women’s Development Director, in which she worked with the U14, U15 and U17 women’s national teams. She was the interim head coach of the U20 WNT in 2010 and helped guide them to a CONCACAF title and the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in Germany.
“Really excited to get going. I love the fact that qualifiers are right around the corner and the World Cup is next year because it does bring away the focus and I feel like I have a very good handle on the current players and I’m excited to bring them in, to gel them and get them ready for qualifiers,” said Ellis in a conference call.
But that’s the golden question. With CONCACAF qualifiers looming later this year, after the startling dismal of former head coach Tom Sermanni, the soccer world was left wondering who would lead the No. 1 ranked women’s team in the world at such a crucial time? Gulati was all confidence as he discussed the timing of it all.
“I don’t see the urgency as some people do. It’s not that the team has been idle for a long period of time; they’ve been playing regular games with some mixed results and the players, unlike a situation where we didn’t have a league, are playing week in and week out.”
Gulati shrugged off urgency in terms of the tournament as well, stating, “This team wants to succeed any time we step into a world championship or Olympics or frankly any time they are on the field. So, that’s the goal and I think there is plenty of time for Jill to get the team playing the way she’d like them to, the way they are capable of and being on the winner stand next summer.”
So what has she got that Sermanni didn’t have? Ellis has been an integral part of U.S. women’s soccer for years and has coached almost every current player on the U.S. WNT at some point in her career. Besides representing the 2008 and 2012 Olympic squads as an assistant, she has served as interim head coach of the team, including the past two matches of this year.
“Jill has got all of the right credentials in terms of experience, how she relates to the players-we’ve been able to see that first hand in the two times she’s been with the senior team and previously with youth teams,” said Gulati. “She gets top marks in all the work she’s done on the technical side with all of the programs over the last several years.”
But why didn’t Ellis take the job the first time around when Pia Sundhage left and Sermanni stepped up- when she was the interim head coach in the meantime? Ellis revealed that her “personal life and the timing just wasn’t right,” since she was juggling double roles working with USSoccer and coaching at UCLA at the time. But now she’s ready to go, stating that she “recognizes that this is a unique opportunity.”
Ellis seems quite comfortable in her newly acquired position, and why not? She is familiar with the team and knows what is expected. Instead, she is looking towards the future and being the best leader she can be for her squad.
“The focus for me will be about bringing in players and very quickly establishing a starting core and building relationships to get ready for qualifiers,” said Ellis. “I know the expectations. People have asked me is that something that is intimidating and I say no, because when you work for USSoccer it’s about winning gold medals and being on the first place podium.”