Commentary

Vlatko Andonovski: 'We do want to get in people's faces'

For a bunch of reasons, the USA hasn't hosted a lot of quality opponents recently.

Paraguay (9-0 and  8-0 U.S. wins) and Uzbekistan (9-1 and 9-0 U.S. wins) succumbed in the most lopsided series sweeps in the history of the national team program.

In the last 16 months, the highest-ranked teams that have traveled to the United States to face the reigning world champions were 17th-ranked Iceland and 18th-ranked South Korea.

Colombia is ranked only 28th in the world. but it will serve as the perfect sparring partner for the USA when they play a two-game series that begins Saturday night in Commerce City, Colorado.

What They're Saying:
Megan Rapinoe on playing in Utah

The USA is preparing for the Concacaf W Championship, which begins July 4 in Monterrey, Mexico, while Colombia is preparing for South America's Copa America Femenina in July. Both tournaments serve as qualifying for the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics.

The USA will face at least one Latin American team, host Mexico in group play, and could face another, Costa Rica or Panama, in the semifinals.

Both USA-Colombia matches will be played at altitude -- Commerce City (5,160 feet above sea level) and Sandy, Utah (4,450 feet) -- but U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said the purpose wasn't to gain an advantage against Colombia.

"We came here to prepare for the Concacaf games," he said. "Everything that we do here, whether it is training, games, we see as a preparation for the tournament."

The USA will be without two of its most important young players, Tierna Davidson and Catarina Macario, both out with ACL knee injuries, and the majority of starters on the 2019 Women's World Cup championship team are unavailable due to injuries or maternity leave, but it has Alex Morgan back for the first time in eight months.

Morgan is having the best season of her 12 years as a pro -- Andonovski said she is scoring goals for the fun -- with a career-high 11 goals in only 10 games for NWSL expansion team San Diego.

"Alex has always been good," he said. "As a professional athlete, it's not easy to be in the best form for 10 years. Sometimes, it's because of the environment, sometimes because of players around you, sometimes it's just simple motivation. It's hard to motivate yourself or to commit to this game for 10 years every day, every day of your life, every hour, every minute that you spend on the field. And I feel like this time there is something else that motivated Alex to show what she can do. And she is enjoying the moment and as any other forward, when they feel it, they take full advantage of it."

Morgan's form has perhaps overshadowed how well two other young forwards, Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith, have played for their NWSL teams to cement starting jobs as the other two forwards in the U.S. attack.



Andonovski's first two years as national team coach were spent responding to the Covid-19 interruptions and working with an aging frontline, but he has his team back trying to do what it does best, which is overwhelm the opposition.

"We want to minimize the opponent's time on the ball," he said when asked about his defensive philosophy. "So with that being said, the term that we use is we attack without a ball. We don't defend for our lives. We don't defend our goal, we attack. And that's the mentality that we have. We do want to get in people's faces."

He said the mindset of his players is nothing new.

"That has been mentality of this team since Day 1, 30 years ago," he said. "It's the culture of this team. It's the culture of this country. I don't think we know how to sit back and be passive. It's being on the front foot, going at people and being aggressive and intense."
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Top 5: Most USWNT state representatives (June friendlies)
1. California: Naomi Girma, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez.
2. Colorado: Lindsey Horan, Jaelin Howell, Mallory Pugh, Sophia Smith.
3. Georgia: Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett.
3. Massachusetts: Alana Cook, Kristie Mewis.
3. Ohio: Aubrey Kingsbury, Rose Lavelle.
3. Virginia:E mily Fox, Andi Sullivan.

Photo: Brad Smith/ISI Photos

13 comments about "Vlatko Andonovski: 'We do want to get in people's faces'".
  1. Bob Ashpole, June 24, 2022 at 8:51 p.m.

    I would much rather that opponents only see our tails as we leave them in the dust.

    If attacking players are moving properly instead of standing still, holding, pushing, etc., only slows the opponent down. The physical game in soccer is nothing if you are coming from playing a running back or receiver in American football. Martial arts helps too.

    My personal idea of the way to handle someone playing physical is to run through him next time instead of running around him. The marker gets the message very quickly.

    I hope that what the coach means by "get in people's faces" is that we will play a tenacious defense instead of we will play opponents physically. Man marking seems like a lost art. Growling and looking mean aren't marking. The job is to tackle the ball, not stare down the opponent.

    I don't want to give the impression that I didn't use intimidation, because I did. Just not in lieu of playing defense.

  2. R2 Dad replied, June 24, 2022 at 11:35 p.m.

    Not entirely sure what VA means, either. But I do think  general aggression in defense is not the message we want to be sending to young female players. I can't tell you how many times I've see female defenders just run through opponents;tackles boys would know enough to either pull out of or just mug the opponent to take the "professional foul". Neither the coaches nor parents seem to mind the girls bad judgment --they've been more worried about parity of calls eg "if that tackle was a yellow card, why is this not a yellow card?". Luckily I haven't had to witness blown knees but there have been plenty of unnecessary collisions where the ball is already away, going to ground was high risk/low reward, or vigorously jockeying the attacker running off the ball was considered fair play.  

  3. Kent James replied, June 25, 2022 at 6 p.m.

    I don't think "get in people's faces" is meant to encourage physical play as much as it is an aggressive, no fear, damn the torpedos full steam ahead attacking mentality.

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, June 25, 2022 at 6:59 p.m.

    I hope you are right, Kent. But I much prefer a tennis attacking mentality: run your opponent all over the court to create an opportunity, and then slam the ball home for a point. In other words play smart to break down the defense, using quickness. If done right, you never need to sprint more than 10 yards or so.

    With the trends to shorter rest periods between matches, it is all the more important to play smart instead running up and down the field.

  5. Bill Dooley, June 25, 2022 at 7:49 a.m.

    Have you seen the ticket prices for today's game?  $200+ for most.  Way more than I paid (combined) for semi-final and final tickets in Lyon at the last Women's World Cup in France.  And 3x (or more) the price for a ticket to the follow-up in Utah.

    https://www.ticketmaster.com/uswnt-v-colombia-presented-by-allstate-commerce-city-colorado-06-25-2022/event/1E005C89A48F2088

    Heavy thunderstorms predicted.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, June 25, 2022 at 8:24 a.m.

    What I remember from past years is all the children in the stands attending the WNT games. At $200 a ticket prices, that is not going to happen. Don't expect any youth teams to be attending at those prices. What is going on? Is USSF trying to "shrink" the sport? Because if they aren't, they better rethink their marketing decisions.

  7. frank schoon, June 25, 2022 at 8:38 a.m.

    That quote says it all....he's worried..If you have a good team , you don't need to say that. That would be said by the lesser team who is trying to intimidate you....

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, June 25, 2022 at 7:03 p.m.

    During the last Olympics, I thought he was going to have a stroke on the sideline. He doesn't exude confidence. He shouldn't play poker.

  9. Frank Strazzulla, June 25, 2022 at 12:44 p.m.

    Going "woke" also leads many parents to not take their kids to USWMT games.  The politics has to stop when the national team jersey goes on-they represent the entire country, not just the woke few.

  10. stewart hayes, June 25, 2022 at 2:41 p.m.

    No sense using tough talk.  If the troops need it they are not well prepared and if you think it will scare the opposition quite the contrary; it will serve to motivate them.  We never want to give them reasons to beat us.  I say show oppoents the respect they deserve at least then they have something to be proud of when they lose.  

  11. Wooden Ships, June 25, 2022 at 7:33 p.m.

    I'm not sure why Vlat felt compelled to say that, other than the team atmosphere and makeup. On that note I do have empathy for the circumstances he finds himself in. Not a chance in hell would I willingly work for the USSF, with all the virtue signaling and angry-spoiled-entitled players and staff. How about singularly focusing on skill and talk with your play. I already miss Llyod. 

  12. Bob Ashpole replied, June 25, 2022 at 11:38 p.m.

    Lloyd was a rare individual. 

    WS: I just watched the national anthem after reading your comment. I didn't see anything controversial. What upset you?

  13. Wooden Ships replied, June 26, 2022 at 3:24 p.m.

    Bob, what I saw was maybe a few actually looking at the flag with their head upright and attentive. Some faces were somber, solemn, even contemptuous. Is that my perception, yes. I don't mind the not singing. In touch Pino even retreats from the players abreast and buries her head. USSF, for me, has allowed, therefore encouraged a noticeable displeasure with their own nation. Perhaps, because we seem to be the only country ashamed so "in your face" demonstrably its effecting our play. Such faux outrage in so many of this generation, like they've had things so bad, is truly turning me off to the passion and excitement I should feel for these players. 

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