CHICAGO – U.S. Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker said the federation is “confidently on track” to hire a new United States women’s national team head coach by December’s training camp.
Crocker, speaking during a roundtable with a group of reporters on Sunday, said he’s “really happy” with where U.S. Soccer is in its search and that the pool of candidates is diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender and experience.
“I feel really excited about the coaches that are interested in the role, which I think is a great indication of how highly this role is considered across the world game,” Crocker said. “My job has been, from the start, to go and find us the best candidate in the world to take the program forward.”
With the 2024 Paris Olympics less than a year away, Crocker was asked if there was a possibility that this person could be hired on an interim basis just to get the USWNT through the next major tournament, especially given that some high-profile and popular coaches are currently under contract.
Crocker, though, insisted he wants to make a hire now for the long haul.
“I’m excited by the quality and caliber of candidates we’ve attracted,” he said. “If that hadn’t been the case, then maybe that would be a different conversation. But looking at the candidates that we are in detailed conversations with, I’m really confident that we can get the right candidates to take us forward.”
U.S. Soccer and Vlatko Andonovski agreed to part ways after a disappointing World Cup. Andonovski’s contract was set to expire this year anyway, but then the USWNT was eliminated by Sweden after a dramatic penalty shootout in the round of 16. Former assistant coach Twila Kilgore is currently coaching the team on an interim basis.
This summer served as a wake-up call for the USWNT as it was made clear that other countries had caught up to its level and in some cases, surpassed it. Spain and England, for example, showed off tactical and technical prowess all the way through the final.
“There was definitely a sense that we need to be better with the ball and have more solutions, in particular in building the attack,” Crocker said. “Once the ball goes to the full back or center back, how do we find solutions in the midfield to retain possession and build and create?
“And when we face a low block and we’ve got the ball and there’s a back five and a deep four midfield, having creative solutions in those tight spaces and having the players and also the tactics to beat the low block.”
Crocker, who was hired in April, said he’s spoken to at least half the team as U.S. Soccer conducts a review of the program. This is nothing new – the federation does this after every major tournament on both the women’s and men’s sides. Crocker said he plans to eventually speak with every player. In these discussions, he’s asking for feedback not just about this summer’s tournament, but the past four-year cycle and what they want from a coach moving forward.
“It’s important to listen to the players,” Crocker said. “They have a lot of experience and have a lot of great knowledge. For me, to get context from them is really, really important. It’s critical.”
The consensus has been that the players want a leader who can develop relationships, build trust, communicate and make bold in-game decisions.
“I’m not saying for one second that wasn’t within the last time,” Crocker said. “But those were the priorities outlined for the next coach going forward.”
Crocker also noted that he’s decided to get rid of the GM positions for both the women’s and men’s sides, which were previously filled by former national team players Kate Markgraf and Brian McBride, respectively.
“I was pretty insistent on that,” Crocker said, “because I feel like I’ll be the one that will be recruiting those coaches, I’ll be the one making sure they’ve got robust development plans, sitting with them and outlining the strategy. It’s my job to hold those guys accountable for what has been agreed.”
While winning can mask problems, what if the USWNT had advanced further into the World Cup or even won it? Would Crocker still be having these discussions and making changes?
“Yeah,” he said. “We would have done exactly the same process as we’ve done here. We are still going to do analysis on the last four-year cycle and we would have still gone through that process and opened [the coaching job] up. That was already part of the plan.”
Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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