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USWNT coaching search: Five candidates to replace Vlatko Andonovski

Lorne Donaldson, who coached Jamaica at the 2023 World Cup, is joining the Chicago Red Stars as their head coach. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Even before Vlatko Andonovski officially resigned as head coach of the U.S. women’s national team, the debates about who should replace him already had begun.

Despite the many differing opinions, everyone can agree on this: The new USWNT coach will face a tall task in preparing the team for next summer’s Olympics. And while the USWNT job is arguably the most desirable position in women’s soccer, it comes with great expectations.

Who has the skills and experience needed to lead the USWNT into its next era? Just Women’s Sports takes a look.

Note: Sarina Wiegman is not on this list because she has made it pretty clear that she is committed to remaining with England.

Lluís Cortés

One report already has linked Cortés to the USWNT as a possible replacement for Andonovski. The former head coach of FC Barcelona Femení, he is stepping down as coach of the Ukrainian women’s national team at the end of August upon the expiration of his contract.

Per The Athletic, Cortes had been in conversations with some NWSL clubs, but Relevo has reported that he also has been contacted by U.S. Soccer. Under his tutelage, Barcelona won the 2020-21 UEFA Women’s Champions League title. The team finished as runners-up in 2018-19 and twice won the Copa de la Reina.

Lorne Donaldson

Donaldson might be a sleeper pick for the USWNT head coach, but he’d make a lot of sense. His connection to Sophia Smith, Jaelin Howell and Mallory Swanson — all of whom he helped develop at the youth level — is intriguing, and his success with Jamaica despite limited resources even moreso.

One big knock against Donaldson is his limited experience, having only coached at the developmental club level and now for the Jamaican national team. But he is worth consideration, especially after leading Jamaica to its first-ever knockout round at the 2023 World Cup.

Tony Gustavsson

The Australia head coach feels like a somewhat natural hire for the USWNT. A longtime assistant coach for the U.S. under two separate head coaches, Gustavsson was a key member of the coaching staff for a long time. So long, in fact, that he designed the set piece plays that helped Carli Lloyd score twice during the 2015 World Cup final.

The one thing Gustavsson lacked in earlier USWNT coaching searches was head coaching experience. Since 2019, though, he took the helm for Australia, coaching the Matildas to their first-ever World Cup semifinal appearance.

Laura Harvey

Harvey is the lone NWSL manager on this list solely because the USWNT needs a coach with quality international experience (the Mark Parsons Netherlands era is an automatic disqualifier).

The OL Reign head coach has that experience – and with the USWNT. She’s worked as a head coach at the developmental levels while also serving as an assistant coach to the senior team from 2020 through 2021. She also has experience as a youth assistant in the England national team system. In short: Harvey checks most, if not all, of the boxes.

The three-time NWSL coach of the year, she also won six trophies while coaching at Arsenal. From her time as manager of the U-20 U.S. national team, she knows many of the younger players who are coming up in the ranks and will be tasked with taking over the USWNT and carrying on the legacy. And while she has said her priority right now remains with OL Reign, she has not ruled out the possibility of a return to the USWNT.

“I enjoyed my time at U.S. Soccer. That’s no doubt,” she said. “The U.S. women’s national team is probably the top job in the world, if not a top three job in the world. That’s just reality. And if my name is anywhere near it, then that’s an honor.”

Emma Hayes

Emma Hayes has found immense success with Chelsea in the Women’s Super League, and she has been discussed before as a possible coach for England. She is familiar with the U.S. system, having coached at the collegiate level and for the Chicago Red Stars from 2008 to 2010. And since 2012, she has built Chelsea into a powerhouse program in the WSL.

Recently, Hayes signed USWNT star midfielder Catarina Macario and prospect Mia Fishel, and she has long coached Australian star Sam Kerr, so she’d clearly have some pull with players on the team. Whether or not she wants to leave what she’s building at Chelsea, however, remains to be seen.

Midge Purce-Backed Docuseries ‘The Offseason’ to Drop This Summer

cast of the offseason nwsl reality series
'The Offseason' follows a group of NWSL stars as they prepare for preseason play. (The Offseason)

The Offseason, a reality series created by Gotham and USWNT star Midge Purce, has officially confirmed its streaming debut, Purce announced in Cannes on Tuesday.

The six-episode, half-hour docuseries will stream this summer on X, though a specific premiere date hasn't yet been set.

The Offseason was filmed in Miami, two weeks before the NWSL preseason. It's a crucial time for athletes, a period where they prepare to join their respective teams and compete for both starting and roster spots. Production designed all the facilities, bringing in top-tier trainers, masseuses, chefs, and gym equipment to create a high-level training environment, ensuring the players were in peak condition, per the show's release. Throughout filming, athletes lived together in one house — a reality TV conceit rife for entertainment.

The series follows a number of NWSL stars, including Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Maria Sanchez (Houston Dash), Lo’eau LaBonta (Kansas City Current), Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash), Taylor Smith (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Nikki Stanton (OL Reign), Ally Watt (Orlando Pride), Taryn Torres (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Paige Nielsen (Angel City FC), and Ify Onumonu (Utah Royals).

"We wanted to create a series that truly captures the essence of what it means to be a professional athlete," said Purce. "This series has always been about more than just sports — it's about the human experience behind the athlete, as well."

The show promises a behind-the-scenes look at professional women's sports, teasing major life decisions, on-field tensions, and players taking stock of the environments they'll be entering once their preseason trip is over. The series delves into the real-life challenges faced by the athletes, including club trades, contract negotiations, burnout, and the relentless pressure from outsiders commenting on the players' personal lives.

The Offseason's official trailer, released on Tuesday, shows snippets of Hubly contemplating retirement, Sanchez joining the group after signing a high-profile contract, and a healthy amount of banter about on-field achievements.

The spirit of the series is reflected in its producers: Box To Box Films is known for their sports content (Drive to Survive, Break Point, Full Swing), whereas 32 Flavors is the creative force behind Vanderpump Rules and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The series was funded by Seven Seven Six, and executive produced by Purce.

Lilia Vu Wins Meijer LPGA Classic After Injury Return

lpga golfer Lilia Vu
Lilia Vu won in her first tournament in two months. (Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Lilia Vu won her fifth LPGA Tour event on Sunday, taking home the Meijer LPGA Classic title in her first tournament appearance since March. 

The World No. 2 had been sidelined with a back injury, but returned with a vengeance last weekend. She began the final day eight shots back of leader Grace Kim, before surviving a three-hole playoff against Kim and former champion Lexi Thompson to take the title. 

"I think this is the most meaningful win," Vu told reporters. "Because there was a time two months ago where I was just crying on the range not being sure if I would ever play a tournament again without pain."

This was Vu's first Meijer LPGA Classic win, and a birdie on the third playoff hole helped secure it. A two-time major champion, she's now two for three in LPGA Tour playoffs. 

She said on Sunday that being unable to defend her title at the Chevron Championship was the "breaking point" in her season.

"Not being able to compete there really killed me," she said. "I feel like I thought I was taking the steps in the right direction, but I’m glad that I was able to take a couple months off and reevaluate my body, let it recover, do what I needed to do to get back out here again.

"And we did the right thing and took two months off. I think it hurt me not to play competitive golf because I literally live for competitive golf, but we did the right thing and that’s why I’m here today."

Vu walked away with $450,000 in prize money from the $3 million overall purse.

Jabeur, Sabalenka Pull Out of Olympics Citing Health Concerns

tennis player Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka will not play in this year's Summer Olympics. (ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Ons Jabeur and Aryna Sabalenka joined a growing list of tennis stars opting out of the Olympics on Monday.

Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion and World No. 3, told reporters in Berlin that she was looking after her health while citing WTA tournament participation requirements. The Belarusian had struggled with a stomach bug during the French Open, where she lost in the semifinals of a major for the first time since 2022. 

Similarly, Jabeur referenced the health risks that come with a change in playing surfaces. The World No. 10 has been battling knee injuries this season, and lost in the French Open quarterfinals to Coco Gauff

"Especially with all the struggles I was having last month, I feel like I need to take care of my health… It’s too much with the scheduling," Sabalenka told reporters. "It’s just too much. I made the decision to take care of my health."

Players will spend the next few weeks playing on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon, while the Olympics will be played on clay at Roland-Garros. 

"After consulting with my medical team regarding attending the Olympics in Paris, we have decided that the quick change of surface and the body’s adaptation required would put my knee at risk and jeopardize the rest of my season," Jabeur tweeted on Monday. "Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics. I have always loved representing my country in any competition, However, I must listen to my body and follow my medical team’s advice."

The two join Emma Raducanu in opting out of the Olympics. Raducanu — who has dealt with a number of injuries since her US Open win in 2021 — said the change in surface was "not worth the risk."

Jaedyn Shaw Breaks NWSL Record for Most Goals Scored as a Teenager

Jaedyn Shaw of the san diego wave
Jaedyn Shaw is now holds the record for most NWSL goals as a teenager. (Julia Kapros-USA TODAY Sports)

Jaedyn Shaw continues to make NWSL history, surpassing Trinity Rodman for the most NWSL goals by a teenager on Saturday. 

She did it in a game against Rodman's Washington Spirit in the 20th minute of the 1-1 draw. It brings her total to 13 league goals, after making her NWSL debut at 17 years old in July 2022. 

The goal is her third this season. Shaw currently leads Wave alongside Makenzy Doniak. 

Shaw has also been a member of the USWNT, alongside Rodman, netting seven goals over 14 national team appearances. If she gets called up to this summer’s Olympics under Emma Hayes, it will mark her first official tournament with the USWNT.

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