Jill Ellis selected as USWNT head coach

Jill Ellis

By CAITLIN MURRAY

The search is over — and the U.S. Soccer Federation didn’t need to look far.

U.S. Soccer has selected Jill Ellis as the new head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team, a source with knowledge of the hiring process confirmed to SBI on Thursday evening. (Update: U.S. Soccer formally announced Friday afternoon that Ellis is the new USWNT head coach.)

Ellis was chosen over the only other two candidates interviewed for the job, the source said: former USWNT head coach Tony DiCicco, who led the team to a World Cup title in 1999, and Tony Gustavsson, who served as assistant coach under Pia Sundhage when the team won Olympic gold in 2012.

A source told SBI the choice had been made early this week after interviews earlier this month.

Ellis, U.S. Soccer’s development director, had been filling in as interim coach since Tom Sermanni was fired in April in an unexpected move. Ellis led the USWNT twice since then in a 3-0 win over China and a 1-1 tie in Canada last week.

The choice of Ellis shows U.S. Soccer was looking for someone familiar with the players after Sermanni, an outsider who came from Australia’s national team, was deemed a bad “cultural fit.” Ellis has worked for U.S. Soccer in various roles over the past 14 years, including as a scout for the USWNT during the 2000 Olympics and as head coach of the U-21 and U-20 USWNTs two separate times each from 2000 to 2009.

Ellis served as interim USWNT head coach once before in 2012 between Sundhage leaving for Sweden and Sermanni being hired, amassing a 5-0-2 record then.

But the abrupt timing of Sermanni’s surprising dismissal means Ellis will have her work cut out for her — the USWNT faces World Cup qualifiers in five months before the big tournament, just little more than a year away.

Sermanni had started as head coach in January 2013 with a contract through 2016 and posted an overall record of 18-2-4. But shortly before his dismissal, he led the squad to a 1-2-1 seventh-place finish at the Algarve Cup, a tournament considered a benchmark due to the strong competition featured. It was their worst-ever showing at the annual tournament and ended a 43-game unbeaten streak.

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What do you think of Ellis being named head coach? Think she’s the right person for the job? Disappointed to see DiCicco and Gustavsson not at the helm? What does this hiring tell us about what U.S. Soccer is looking for?

Share your thoughts below.

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42 Responses to Jill Ellis selected as USWNT head coach

  1. DB says:

    That’s…unfortunate.

  2. Weston John says:

    To me, this means Route 1 soccer with the Old Guard for next year’s WC.

    It will certainly be interesting to see if that direct style and the last hoo-ra for the veterans results in hoisting the cip.

  3. The Imperative Voice says:

    You’ think the Canada tie wold give them pause. Like by definition a team you might hae to beat to qualify or win the Cup.

    This also does not give off the feel of a strong process, fire the old coach between games late in the cycle, interview other people but then hire the interim coach as crunch time hits. She has a pretty good CV, but does it scream winner or instead we fired the coach and have to do something now.

    • AMP says:

      +1, And I don’t think it screams winner. Still, even though this disappoints me, congrats to her, and good luck to the USWNT.

  4. Taylor says:

    Well, I’d assume Jill fit the “cultural fit” criteria to a T since she’s been in the USSF system for years. So the old guard are certainly comfortable with her. By this choice, I think it’s clear USSF have elected to go forward with the tried and true method (& winning ways) of USWNT. Tony G at least has demonstrated on club level a more possession or sophisticated method of play while still familiar with the current staple of players.

    I find it interesting what seems to be the comfort & say of the old guard who might retire in a year or two have outweighed the voices of the ones that will be on the teams for the future. Gulati probably spoke to the stars of the team. And given the unprompted voice of support for Gustavsson in an interview, you could possibly assume that was Alex Morgan’s choice for coach. Plus, it was surprising to hear she heard Sermanni was fired on twitter like us. Leroux must love this pick. And Press might find Ellis’ hiring as… not as welcomed if it was Tony G.

  5. jones says:

    Disappointing.

    I think she will integrate new players, but it will not matter since she seems to struggle with the tactical side of things. Like I commented yesterday, during the U20 WWC in 2010, she was inflexible and lacking vision – unable to make the necessary tactical and personnel changes. I think this will carry over to the senior team setup. Let’s just hope she proves me wrong (or that they hire a very good assistant coach…).

  6. kevin says:

    I dont know what everyone is so disappointed with. For those who criticize Jill for being an insider, dont forget that she has historically coached in their youth programs (and at UCLA) and has an obvious eye for recognizing new talent and integrating them into the squad.

    I’d love to know how you can sit at home (or on the sidelines even) and judge a coach’s vision or flexibility. Too many armchair managers.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Caleb Porter. A coach could recruit a strong group of players and roll out the ball for them and achieve results. That doesn’t mean he’s a sharp coach with a sense of his team’s blind spots, or who can close out tough games or win comebacks.

      UCLA is also reknowned for a men’s coach whose talented teams are less than the sum of their parts. Easy recruiting but limited success.

      My HS coach had no acumen but rode club players to two state championships and coaching awards. But when the team bumped up against its limits he had no ability to change games with players or tactics. He could just roll out the ball for his best players and make obvious subs when people tired.

    • jones says:

      While I don’t really get people’s concerns about insider status, I do think it’s appropriate to judge a manager’s tactical “vision and flexibility.” I watched every game she managed in the U20 WWC and some of the qualifiers. It was clear that she didn’t know how or when to make impactful changes during the match and from one game to the next. That team underperformed and was the first ever not to make it past the quarters of that tournament. This stuff matters when you get to the Big Event.

    • Yankiboy says:

      Not trying to be snarky but isn’t that pretty much what a heck of a lot of us sports fans do–armchair manage?

      That’s why we have sportsbars, Sportstalk radio, Internet forums and email sports editors and columnists with our take.

      I’m just happy that people care enough about the team to be disappointed. Or thrilled. Or someplace in between.

      I don’t think the second guessing or any other reaction is such a bad thing…

  7. bryan says:

    don’t know much other than she is a Fairfax, VA native and fellow graduate of Robinson High School.

  8. Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

    I think if I am a woman player, I prefer a woman coach, all other things equal.

    I hope she crushes it.

    • AMP says:

      I’ve thought about this too, and have absolutely no idea. A woman player could offer us better insight. This is a cool hypothetical, but I’m not sure that “all other things equal,” actually exists. I’ve never been coached by a woman as a player, but I have assisted under one, and the gender thing never really crossed my mind. I have to imagine it would be a pretty low priority for most adults in this day and age.

    • RPH says:

      You mean a female player and a female coach?

      Grammar, dude, check it out.

  9. Alex H says:

    This can’t be viewed as a vote of confidence for Jill. If the federation had confidence in her they could have just given her the job outright, but instead they essentially said, “Here, take over while we pursue who we really want and if there is nobody better then you can have it”

  10. InTheKnow says:

    Wow, much of this is just nonsense. Jill is a fantastic coach and understands all aspects of the game as much as anyone as you could find. She has been successful on every level that she has ever played or coached. She has an exceptionally strong tactical and technical understanding of the game as well an expertise in identifying talent, which has been her job for many years. And, beyond all that, she is adored by the players just like Pia was and is able to motivate her teams to perform, just as she did during her stint at UCLA with highly successful teams year in and year out. US Soccer begged her to take the team when Pia left, which would have been the most logical move since she was the Asst. She felt she was not able to make the time commitment and therefore did not put her name in the running. She is now ready to take the team through next summer to win the World Cup and I have every confidence she will do just that. As far as suggesting that conducting interviews when she was already the interim suggests they ‘settled’ on her, that’s just complete nonsense. Any reputable organization has an obligation to it’s supporters/employees/stockholders/whatever, to conduct their due diligence, if for no other reasons than appearances. The job was hers for the taking since Sermanni left, but in order to cover all bases, and avoid criticisms, of course they will bring in a pool of high level applicants to ensure she is the best. Go get ‘em Jill.

    • Increase says:

      Despite all you just said all I know about her is that 0-0 Draws with Canada are not encouraging.

  11. kernel_thai says:

    As USSoccer leadership doesnt have the courage or the foresight to back their coaches it prolly doesnt matter who was selected. What I want from this is accountability. If this fails to bring home the cup Gulati and Flynn need to resign. Make them back their decisions and they will make more considered choices.

  12. JoeW says:

    One of my coaching licenses was from her dad…good guy. And he was immensely proud of his daughter. I saw Jill play at Robinson SS (I grew up in Northern Virginia and leave in Burke). Here’s my take:

    1. I think it’s a mistake to read anything in to the tie with Canada. The Canada-USA women’s matches are blood matches for Canada. They’re a team we used to dominate and now they are much closer to us in ability and skill.

    2. I don’t see this so much as going for the “now” and sacrificing the future (or old vs. youth). To me, the efforts by Sermani to integrate youth, widen the pool, play more possession, and be more technical and tactical were ones that rubbed a lot of the NT vets the wrong way. We’re used to being the aggressor (which means attacking, being more direct, using set pieces and crosses) and actually playing a pretty simple game tactically. Our women typically have a size and conditioning advantage against almost every team we play. We wear other sides down. But that style is susceptible to counters, it means we expose ourselves in the back, and it’s tactically simplistic. And against a side that can defend against crosses, it means we can’t break the defense down…we have to rely on set pieces for scores.

    I mean no offense to Jill Ellis but I think she’s a comfortable shoe to the veterans. She’s not a threat to them. I think the players will relate well to her. I worry about our ability to advance against Brasil, France, Japan, or Sweden in the knock-out rounds in the upcoming WC. Those teams all have superior technique to the US women and are superior tactically.

  13. recovered amishman says:

    I guess we’ll have a clue about who is actually in charge if Ellis continues to trot out the 4-3-3 with a certain aging forward in front of goal.

    • Dan Daminko says:

      You’re on the mark.
      Sermanni’s “cultural fit” issue = changing the status quo.
      Let’s see how that pan’s out.

  14. user222 says:

    clueless Gulati should fire Ellis if the USWNT draws or loses to France in the upcoming two games with the frenchies…
    To not fire Ellis after a horrific game plan against canada makes gulati an total tool.

    • Stew says:

      Gulati has the WORST track record of hiring coaches. Check out the success of US National teams since he became president

      • AMP says:

        Gulati should fire himself if we even tie France in one of the next two games. Unacceptable! (Did I do that right?)

  15. Kor says:

    Although the Ellis appointment does not exactly thrill me, she deserves time to put her mark on the team. The “interim” tag means that you are basically a temporary shepherd for the status quo. You don’t bother making serious squad improvements until you know that the job is yours. Now that Ellis has the job, let the judging begin. :)

    By the way, in my opinion a draw with Canada is not exactly a disgrace. Canada is much better than most of the rest of the opposition. Yeah, I want to beat them but I definitely respect them.

  16. soccerhorn says:

    No doubt Ellis is an exceptional coach and deserves the opportunity. That said, I think the conversation probably went something like this:

    Sunil: “Abby, who would you like to be the new coach?”
    Abby: “Jill Ellis.”

  17. Duke says:

    After a world wide search ……

    I dont see this as a good thing, I think she is too biased to be successful and I dont see her as the one that will keep us as #1 for long.

  18. Allex says:

    If Ellis will just stop this ridiculous game of musical chairs that Sermanni started where no one knows their role and lineups are drawn out of a hat, I would still take this team of veterans against anyone in the world one more time. Give me the battle tested vets for the next 15 months and I will take my chances. This team had zero chemistry under Sermanni. It regressed. It also desperately needs a healthy Alex Morgan.

    • user222 says:

      it didnt work against japan at the WC Final… remember? japan hogged the ball long enough and the US only score two goals in 120 minutes against midget players… it didnt work against a much more technical brazilian team for 120 minutes either except for the miracle goal by Abby to send it to a PK shoot out.

      miracles by veteran players wont win Championships….

  19. Remy says:

    I am not sure about this. The US team needs to get better technically and I think she is part of the old guard so she will not emphasize that aspect. The other countries are rapidly catching up to the US so naive tactics based on physical play with long balls is no longer going to work.

    • Zocklo says:

      Problem goes back to middle school and HS soccer where the best athlete relies on speed rather than technique, coaching a problem. Unlikely US will win WC.

  20. chris_thebassplayer says:

    Ellis has been in the system a long time. If she was a creative and motivating shining star, they would have picked her instead of Pia. The only thing that will save her is if Morgan and Syd light it up…She has a lot of work to do, the defense is in transition and the older midfield vets won’t be able to dictate the game against more technical teams that play 5 mids. This is an uninspiring move that simply allows the vets to run the roost. I’m bummed, we’re stuck in neutral while everyone else is getting better.

  21. The Garrincha says:

    Not much of a coaching search to speak of.
    We all realize it was essentially a coup d’etat.
    Just needed to wait a little while so it wouldn’t seem so obvious.
    It still would be good to see some new blood on the field every once in a while,
    as well as a little more tactical and technical advancement.
    It appears most of the other top 10 teams have pretty much figured them out.
    Big, fast, strong, athletic defenders, ala Fischer & Bucanan etc…