Vlatko Andonovski wants USWNT to be challenged in Australia friendlies

Brad Smith/ISI Photos

The USWNT squad that’s facing off against Australia might be full of fresh faces, but that doesn’t mean the expectations are any lower.

In speaking with reporters ahead of Friday’s game, USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski said that bringing such a young roster halfway around the world was intentional, particularly ahead of the run up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

“This was not a coincidence,” he said when asked about his expectations for the team. “We wanted to test these players… with adversity.

“We’ll find out very quickly who is cut for this and who is not.”

So far this year, the USWNT has only played friendlies in the United States, having yet to travel and play any away games. Andonovski said he hopes that the experience on the road will be helpful as the team looks to schedule more away games in the future. According to USWNT PR chief Aaron Heifetz, over 35,000 tickets have been sold for the matchup in Sydney — the largest crowd the Matildas will have ever played for on home soil.

“Nothing can compare to what we experience in the states,” Andonovski said. “That being said, it’s important that we travel overseas. Hopefully in the future, we’ll be able to [travel abroad] a little more often.”

Andonovski has said before that he hopes the long-distance travel, hostile environment and a talented Matildas squad will challenge the USWNT’s up-and-coming players. On Friday, Andonovski again praised Australia’s star forward Sam Kerr, calling her “definitely one of the best strikers in the world.”

“I wish I could say ‘if we do this, we’re gonna stop Sam Kerr,’ but it just doesn’t work like that,” he said, adding, “We want to play against the best.”

The USWNT will face off against the Matildas in the first of two friendlies on Friday at 11 p.m. ET on FS2.