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Sports Authority

Mannion McGinley: Taking a look at the main candidates for head coach of the USWNT

| Wednesday, August 28, 2019

When you think of the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT), you think not only of success on the field but strength and unity in both its ideals and convictions. Not only is this true for the players, but it extends to the squad‘s British-born manager who has supported them through all their recent success.

Jill Ellis remains a face of the USWNT along with her captains — Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe — and the rest of her all-star players. But come October, all of that will change as Ellis has officially decided to step down from the managing position. She often references that the plan always was to leave at the end of her contract — which approaches this October. The big question looming over the team is who will fill her place and can he or she do so swiftly with such a self-sufficient team? Will any of the three main prospects end up strong enough? Let’s take a look at the main prospects for the available position.

 

Paul Riley

Riley is the manager of the North Carolina Courage and has led them to a runner-up finish in 2017 and a national championship in 2018. With success in New York as well, he’s arguably the NWSL’s leading coach, making him a very strong candidate. But he has one major flaw. He likes to come in as the underdog and while succeeding from that position is a strength, it’s not something the USWNT has ever been.

The team’s current captains don’t think that way either. Rapinoe and Morgan spent the season supporting their teammates with the very “authentic” mentality that they are the very best, even before winning a world-class title. Afterwards, how could you play with any other mentality? If that is where his strength is, he and the team could take too long to adjust to each other and the lack of cohesion could easily result in a weak start to the upcoming Olympic tournament, which will be held in Tokyo in the summer of 2020. That would be just about the weakest reflection on their World Cup win. Because of this, Riley has recently said he doesn’t know how interested he would be in the position, “at this time,” which leaves the possibility open for discussion in the future.

 

Laura Harvey

As another British-born manager in America, Laura seems like the “stick with what you know” sort of choice. In her five years with the Seattle Reign, she came away with two shield titles — much like Jill Ellis’s five years on the national stage — and received coach of the year those same two seasons. With Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press already on her club team, she would have three starters in her corner and thus take almost no time adjusting.

Harvey’s one possible drawback would be her age. At 39 years old, she’s considerably younger than Ellis was at her start for the national team when she was 47 years old. She has little experience with a team that’s so wide spread, having only held one interim position as the USWNT Under-23 head coach. On top of that, with team members like Carli Lloyd and Ali Krieger at 37 and 35, respectively, it could be harder to gain the authoritative position she needs to with them all so close in age. If she does take the position despite this, it would be the greatest turn around the team could ask for. With younger players like Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle already making themselves known and plenty more to follow them, Harvey could be their coach for plenty long — longer than Lloyd or Krieger might be playing — providing the rest of the team with stability and the coaching staff that lasts as long as it needs. It would be interesting to see if her age became a weakness or an asset. While beneficial in the long run, would it spell misfortune in Tokyo this summer?

 

Mark Krikorian and Sarina Wiegman

The last two of the top options are much longer shots but have been in the discussion and would be strong additions if they took the position. It’s been a decade and a half since Mark Krikorian took the reigns of a professional women’s soccer team, but that doesn’t take away from the success he has found with the Florida State women’s team, which included four appearances in the national title game, three ACC regular season titles and six league championships. This success has spread over his time there, making it more of a long shot that he might leave, especially with the season beginning and Tokyo being in such close range.

For anyone who watched the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer, this final name should ring a bell or two. Sarina Wiegman, coach of the Dutch women’s team faced the USWNT in the final this summer in France. Despite losing 2-0 to the U.S., Wiegman lead the Netherlands team to some great triumphs in the tournament, including wins over Canada, Japan, Italy and Sweden. With all that she’s done for that squad, some hope to see all that she’ll be able to do with the best team in the world. As a native of the Netherlands though, many expect her to stay right where she is and grow the new threat that is the Netherlands team even after her contract comes to a close in 2020.

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