Vlatko Andonovski and the American soccer dream

Vlatko Andonovski, the new U.S. women's national team head coach, was 24 when he moved to the United States from North Macedonia in 2000.

He came to continue his playing career indoors. Little did he know, his calling was in coaching -- coaching women's soccer, a sport that was still taking off in communities around the country.

The NPSL folded after Andonovski's first season with the Wichita Wings, but he played five more years indoors, mostly with the MISL's Kansas City Comets. He was the MISL Defender of the Year in 2002 and MISL MVP in 2005 with the Comets and  a two-time MISL All-Star.

Andonovski settled with his wife, Biljana, in Kearney, Missouri, outside Kansas City, and earned a degree at Park University. Like so many other ambitious coaches, he cobbled a career, finding soccer jobs in the Kansas City area wherever he could: youth soccer, college and indoors, in leagues like the PASL and MASL.

“When I look back, I could not believe that was going to happen,” he said on Monday when he was introduced as the new women's coach in New York. “When I came to the country, first of all, it was for me to enjoy the game and play the game that I love. I never even thought about being a coach. But once I started coaching in the back of my mind, I thought about it all the time.”

Andonovski was the director of coaching for Futura FC and Sporting Blue Valley and helped out with the men's and women's teams at Metropolitan Community College-Blue River. He started to make a name for himself in girls soccer, running the ODP program for Missouri and coaching KCFC/Futura Academy.

When the NWSL came along in 2013 and the owners of the Comets were granted a team in Kansas City, Andonovski was the natural choice to coach FC Kansas City, the new women's team.

The thing is, they also handed Andonovski the coaching responsibilities for the Comets. In his second season, both the Comets and FC Kansas City won league titles. FC Kansas City repeated at NWSL champion in 2015.

Andonovski quickly developed a reputation for the details as he went to to scout players and prepare his teams, and even though their seasons didn't overlap, he decided in 2016 that coaching the two teams was too much and concentrated on FC Kansas City.

"I'm not arrogant by any means," he recently told ESPN, "and I know that when I came in the league I was nobody. I know that every coach in the league was way ahead of me. I knew that I had to do a lot of work to catch up and be able to mesh with the product on the field."

After the 2017 season, FC Kansas City folded. Andonovski took job at the head coach of the Seattle Reign, but he continued to reside in the Kansas City area.

Comets managing partner Brian Budzinski, who gave Andonovski his first pro coaching job, said the combination of jobs shaped him into the coach he is today.

"When I look back and think how it all started for Vlatko, it's crazy," said Budzinski. "We had some great experiences at many different levels. I'm just thankful to have played a small part in a few of his experiences."

Photo: Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire

11 comments about "Vlatko Andonovski and the American soccer dream".
  1. Bob Ashpole, October 29, 2019 at 6:31 a.m.

    This is not a logical candidate for moving the team forward. He is charming and the women that he has coached like him. Which is great. He is a "comfortable" choice. Don't expect positive changes in the style of play from a "comfortable" choice.

    He was an indoor soccer pro and was a very successful mens indoor soccer coach. He has coached NWSL teams, but never had a winning season.

    No one has mentioned about his moving his family to Chicago.

    Never had a winning season....

    Nonetheless, perhaps even more emphatically, I wish the WNT new coach much success. 

  2. Matt Cardillo replied, October 29, 2019 at 9:11 a.m.

    Bob, i can't argue whether he's a good or bad choice, but didn't he win the NWSL championship in 2015?

     In his second season, both the Comets and FC Kansas City both league titles. FC Kansas City repeated at NWSL champion in 2015.

    Or is the article wrong?

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, October 29, 2019 at 11:37 a.m.

    I was wrong. I looked at a Wiki page before I posted which has since been edited to change the information. All the stats for his coaching career were deleted this morning, apparently because they were wrong. 

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, October 29, 2019 at 2:28 p.m.

    By the way, making the playoffs doesn't mean a team had a winning record in the regular season. Andronovski has had past success, but more recently has been dealing with "challenges" not of his own making. I liked what he did with Seattle last season, even though they didn't have a winning record.

  5. frank schoon, October 29, 2019 at 10:02 a.m.

    Guys, I'm not going to make a judgement either way on Vlatco. First of all I don't know him, never heard of him and certainly I'll will not make a judgement based on whether he has ever won a championship or not or whatever. Bob might be right about not expecting positive changes in the playing style, who knows. I'll wait when he begins to coach and see....

    I also like to know who his assisstants are.

  6. R2 Dad replied, October 29, 2019 at 1:48 p.m.

    Yes, Frank, I'm curious who he will be working with, too. If, as Bob fears, USSF is now busy disassembling the USWNT like it has the men's, he may not get too many assistants who are interested/able to move to chicago. 
    I don't think it would be too difficult, however, to tweak the system now to encourage more patient build-up play and creativity in the attacking 3rd that isn't based on our players running past opponents. 
    I just hope this new guy doesn't have a complicated "system".

  7. frank schoon replied, October 29, 2019 at 3:39 p.m.

    R2, complicated system,LOL. I'd be happy they can just pass the ball with good velocity to the right person and to the correct foot.  Perhaps Bob is right ,but i'll wait. I hope SA will do an interview with him, maybe we'll find out something about how he wants to play...

  8. Santiago 1314, October 29, 2019 at 3:40 p.m.

    Best Wishes and Luck to him... He's gonna need it... USSF seems to be pushing the "Peter Principle" to the Max..."people tend to rise to their level of their incompetence."
    Ernie Stewart, Berhalter Bro.. Coach "Gumby" Berhalter... now this guy... Whoever/Whatever his name is.???  Really, we don't have any USA Female Coaches that wanted this job.??? That is a SAD Statment unto itself.!!!

  9. Jen Cooper, October 29, 2019 at 5:25 p.m.

    I do the stats for the NWSL streams ... for the record, Andonovski has had multiple winning records in the regular season, made the playoffs 5 of 7 seasons, won Coach of the Year twice, won two titles. Only one coach in NWSL has won more games (regular season + playoffs) than Andonovski and that's Paul Riley (has just a few more wins).

    Regular Team (Rk) W L T GF GA  
    2013 KC (2) 11 6 5 34 22  
    2014 KC (2) 12 7 5 39 32  
    2015 KC (3) 9 6 5 32 20  
    2016 KC (6) 7 8 5 18 20  
    2017 KC (7) 8 9 7 29 31  
    2018 SEA (3) 11 5 8 27 19
    2019 SEA (4) 10 6 8 27 27

    The players I've spoken to who've played for him praise him for his incredibly professional training environment and his refusal to "blow smoke" or play favorites. He gives all players an honest assessment of their performance after every game, with video. Surprising to say not a lot of coaches do that.

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, October 29, 2019 at 5:50 p.m.

    Jen, the best record is only 50% (12 wins out of 24 games). After 2014, the regular season record is worse. He did win the playoffs twice though. 

  11. Bob Ashpole, October 29, 2019 at 8:53 p.m.

    Think about this. USSF has hired WNT and MNT coaches from the domestic leagues. Both coaches did not have winning records, although other coaches did. (Berhalter's overall win percentage at Columbus was 38%) Berhalter by any stretch of the imagination was not the best coach in MSL. Both coaches did make the playoffs and Andonovski won the playoffs twice. GB's best showing was losing in the finals. 

    It is little comfort that Andonovski is the best coach in the 9 team NWSL.

    Why is USSF hiring coaches from its domestic leagues? It is great for the domestic leagues, but not in the sport's best interest. I can't help but attribute this to the professional soccer industry controlling USSF, which is supposed to be looking out for amateur soccer.

    I have read some media pundits suggesting that Andonovski is better qualified for the WNT job than Jill Ellis. Oh right. Jill Ellis was never a NWSL head coach. 

    Andonovski may be the best coach that the WNT will ever have and a future hall of famer. I don't know that, but I certainly wish him the best. Jill Ellis and April Heinrichs are a tough act to follow. 

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