Photo courtesy of Lorie Shaull

Coach of US national team, Jill Ellis, retires after 5 years

Five years after taking charge of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, Jill Ellis stepped down as head coach of the most accomplished team in the history of women’s soccer. She concluded her national team career with a 1-1 draw against South Korea in Chicago on Oct. 6, which was the concluding game in the World Cup Victory Tour. 

“The timing is right to move on and the program is positioned to remain at the pinnacle of women’s soccer,” Ellis said on the U.S. Soccer website. “Change is something I have always embraced in my life and for me and my family this is the right moment.”

During her tenure as head coach, Ellis earned a record number of 106 wins, one more than the legendary Tony DiCicco, a former coach of the U.S. women’s national team who won the 1999 World Cup. She has been the head of the national team since 2014 and won two SheBelieves Cups, two CONCACAF Women’s Championships and two World Cups. The two consecutive World Cup victories in Canada in 2015 and in France in 2019 made her the first head coach to achieve the feat in the history of female soccer.  

When she joined the national team as interim coach in 2014, she had only one year to prepare her players for the World Cup. Ellis went into the 2015 World Cup without making major changes to the team. She effectively relied on the most experienced players like Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd which brought her the first World Cup title. 

The national team suffered an unexpected elimination in the quarterfinals match against Sweden in the 2016 Olympic Games. In response to this, Ellis made significant changes to the roster over the next two years, excluding some senior players like Hope Solo, Ali Krieger and Amy Rodriguez and, instead, bringing in 17 new players. She experimented with different tactics including changing players’ positions and rotating numerous rookies through the starting eleven. This resulted in another turbulent year and many senior players petitioning for her resignation. 

However, Ellis remained in her post and won new titles in 2018 and 2019. Even though the transition period was painful, she did what was necessary and eventually rejuvenated the team. Players who were crucial for qualifying and winning the 2019 World Cup got their first appearance during Ellis’ tenure. Rose Lavelle, who scored the second goal in the 2019 World Cup Final against the Netherlands, was first called up by Ellis in 2015. Crystal Dunn was moved from forward to the left wing-back position by Ellis in one of her tactical experiments and ended up being one of the most dominant players on the field.

Some critics say that all her success comes from an insanely talented squad. And truly, the national team is filled with world-renowned players. But, their success was only possible because of Ellis’ coaching. Her decisions might have been questionable at certain points, but they paid off in the end. The national team is in good shape to face opponents during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. That was ensured by Ellis’ relentless efforts to support young players like Tierna Davidson and Mallory Pugh, who will take on the mantle from veteran players on the team. The next coach is facing the difficult decision of naming an 18-player roster for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which is five players less than the World Cup roster. But the future seems bright for team, colloquially known as “The Gals,” since the current frontrunners for the head coach position are Vlatko Andonovski of Reign FC and Laura Harvey of Utah Royals FC. Both were lauded by the many players currently playing on the national team.

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