Jill Ellis recalls her no ‘regrets’ approach to USWNT’s 2019 World Cup win

(Naomi Baker - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

The United States women’s national team dominated the 2019 FIFA World Cup, outscoring their opponents 26-3 while never trailing and leading for 442 of their 630 played minutes.

The 2019 World Cup also marked the team’s second consecutive win under head coach Jill Ellis, and the first such streak for a USWNT manager.

“In that moment, it was less relief and more just so proud,” Ellis tells Kelley O’Hara on the debut episode of The Players’ Pod. “I was just so proud of the staff that hung in there, just the resolve of the players.”

The USWNT’s victory was no easy feat, with the lead-up to the tournament especially taxing. Ellis admits that the team’s quarterfinal loss at the 2016 Rio Olympics was an “epic fail” and a “body blow,” and she was committed to avoiding a repeat of those mistakes at the World Cup.

Ellis and assistant coach Tony Gustavsson implemented a detailed game plan, challenging the USWNT players in preparation for 2019. Set pieces were a focal point for Ellis in training.

“I said, ‘I don’t want to have any regrets of not looking at every single thing to help us be successful,'” Ellis recalls. “We want penalty kicks to be another phase of the game.”

Her approach paid off with goals from the spot, serving as the difference in close games during the knockout stage.

O’Hara remembers the grueling training sessions leading up to France, saying they made her feel more prepared than ever.

“It all clicked for me when the tournament started because I was like, I don’t even have to think. I know exactly what I am supposed to do in every moment of the game, of a set piece, and so does everyone else because you guys were so militant about it,” O’Hara tells Ellis.

“We got to a point where everybody knew their role,” Ellis says. “It was a pretty cool ride.”

The disciplined nature of the World Cup cycle made the victory that much sweeter for Ellis and the USWNT.

“I remember I stayed a long time at the party that time because I was like, I am going to enjoy this one,” Ellis says, adding that she knew the 2019 tournament would be her last major event with the team. “I had kind of made my decision to do that, so I really did try and stay in the moment and enjoy it and take it in because it was such a special day.”

O’Hara felt the weight of the moment as well, calling it “one of the highlights of my career, if not the highlight at this point.”

Listen to the latest episode of The Players’ Pod for more from O’Hara and Ellis on their historic World Cup run.