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Vlatko Andonovski is ‘better’ NWSL coach thanks to USWNT experience

(Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Vlatko Andonovski is back in Kansas City with the NWSL. And he returns to the league a better coach thanks to his experience with the U.S. women’s national team.

The Kansas City Current introduced Andonovski, 47, on Monday as their next head coach. He previously coached in the NWSL from 2013 to 2019, including five seasons with FC Kansas City from 2013 until 2017. He won two NWSL championships with the former Kansas City club, and he has maintained a home in Kansas City ever since.

In 2019, Andonovski was tasked with managing the USWNT, but his tenure with the national team came to an end in August following a disappointing result at the World Cup.

“Coaching the national team was a great opportunity individually for me,” he said Monday. “Selfishly, it was a great growth opportunity for me. When you’re surrounded with the staff that I was around, with some of the best players in the world, you have no choice but to better yourself on a daily basis and to get better in every opportunity that is given to you.

“And there’s no one or two things that I can point out, but the whole opportunity, the whole four-year tenure that I had was an opportunity for me to get better. I certainly believe that I got better and there will be moments in my new job, in my new position that I will use [that experience] and hopefully even do better than before.”

Losing in the Round of 16 at the World Cup was “tough” emotionally and that he “went through a tough time,” he said. While he initially considered taking a more extended break from coaching, the people of Kansas City and the vision of the club made him decide to return to the NWSL.

“One thing that hit me was actually how much this city, the people in the city, the friends and my neighbors were behind me and supportive of me,” he said. “And when I started the talks with [Current owners Angie and Chris Long], I was very happy about the vision and the goals, but I was also happy that all those opportunities were in front of me in the city that gave me comfort in my hardest times. And I’m very thankful for it. And I’m looking forward to repaying them.”

Still, the NWSL has changed since Andonovski last led a team. For one, the league is expanding, with four more teams set to join in the next three years.

There also is increasing investment in the league, with more fans than ever before and teams valued higher than ever before. And Kansas City is set to open the first-ever soccer stadium designed specifically for a women’s team, which is scheduled to open by the start of the 2024 season.

Andonovski understands that the league has changed “tremendously” in the time since he left, he said. But coaching the USWNT helped him stay connected with players. And he’s ready to be part of the league’s evolution.

“We have no choice as coaches, as a team to keep on evolving because the game itself evolves,” he said, noting that it’s changing “a lot more” and more quickly than ever before.

“In the past, it used to be World Cup to World Cup,” he continued. “Now the game moves so fast that it evolves on a yearly basis, and we have to keep up. And it’s not that we just have to keep up, we want to be ahead of it. We want to be ahead of everyone, we want to be trendsetters. We want to be able to create or build something that people will follow.”