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Vlatko Andonovski: ‘Insane’ to criticize USWNT’s will to win

Vlatko Andonovski led the U.S. women's national team into the next round, but some have questioned the team's effort. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images)

In the wake of the U.S. women’s national team’s 0-0 draw against Portugal, former captain Carli Lloyd, now an analyst for FOX Sports, said the team’s play was “uninspiring,” among other harsh words. Coach Vlatko Andonovski took exception to the criticism.

“To question the mentality of this team, to question the willingness to win, to compete, I think it’s insane,” Andonovski said.

The USWNT advanced to the Round of 16 with the draw, but just barely: Portugal substitute Ana Capeta nearly scored in second-half stoppage time, but her shot pinged off the right post; a loss would’ve knocked Andonovski’s team out of the tournament. After the draw, USWNT players were seen dancing and smiling.

“I have never witnessed something like that,” Lloyd said of the players’ celebration. “The player of the match was that post. You are lucky to not be going home right now.”

Andonovski took over the USWNT in October 2019 after his predecessor, Jill Ellis, led the program to consecutive World Cup championships. Ellis had endured criticism for some of her tactical decisions, among other things, and the hope was Andonovski could be a steadying presence as the team continued to chase greatness.

Then the USWNT finished third at the 2021 Summer Olympics, leading some to question Andonovski’s leadership. On Tuesday, after narrowly avoiding disaster, Andonovski defended his team.

“This team wanted to win this game more than anything else,” he said. “I’ve never seen this team step on the field and not try hard, or not compete. Everyone is entitled to (their) opinion, they can say whatever they want, but I just know how this team feels.”

Andonovski added: “It’s not like we played well by any means. We owned it. We know it’s not good enough. We’re not happy with our performance. But we qualified for the next round, we’re moving on.”