United States Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski, a 2008 graduate of Park University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in business administration/management, accepted Park University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award on Thursday afternoon.
Over the course of seven years of coaching in the NWSL with FC Kansas City and the Seattle Reign, Andonovski led his teams to five playoff appearances and two NWSL titles- both with FCKC- and was awarded the NWSL Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2019. The Macedonia native also led the Missouri Comets to the MISL championship in 2013/14 and was named MASL Coach of the Year in 2014/15. Andonovski was named the ninth head coach in USWNT history in October of 2019.
Andonovski held a press conference at the university’s Julian Field, which is home of Park Pirates men’s and women’s soccer teams and hosted the Kansas City Wizards twice in their 2005 U.S. Open Cup run. He covered a wide range of topics involving the USWNT.
Park U’s 2020 Distinguished @ParkAlumni Award winner and @USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski ‘08 returned to campus and shared his pride for his alma mater and education. He also gave an update about what’s happening with #USWNT. #ParkUnited ❤️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/aEimCZkdCw— Park University (@ParkUniversity) August 27, 2020
Andonovski opened the press conference by saying:
“I’ll just start off and say how honored and humbled I am to be here today to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award. I had a great experience with Park for so many years and am so thankful for the opportunity that Park University provided for me, for my family, my wife is a Park University graduate as well. And I was able to accumulate lots of knowledge and experience. I was able to create some relationships with fellow students, with faculty and staff that will last for the rest of my life. I’m very thankful for all the opportunities. I’m thankful to coach Efrem Shimlis (Park men’s soccer coach) to allow me to be apart of the soccer program here while I was at Park, Coach English (Park Athletic Director) for making that possible, and all the faculty and staff that were with me and were apart of my journey here.”
He added later that this award was a pleasant surprise to him and means a lot to him since he has stayed in the community. The award was very humbling to Andonovski and he said this is a motivation and inspiration to work hard and to represent Park University in the best possible manner.
When asked about his summer, as he would be returning from the Tokyo Olympics, he commented:
“Obviously a little with everything that happened around the world. We’re not happy, nobody’s happy with that, but the mindset for us this summer was creativity. Just being creative and making things happen in a different way. We’re trying to stay connected to the players as much as possible through different venues and obviously the tournament in Utah was the highlight of the summer for us because we we were able to watch live games and then also evaluate players to analyze and help the further development of the players that are already on the national team.”
The USWNT head coach stated that he was in Utah for 35 days and was able to attend “about 25 games and another 50-60 training sessions.” He continued “To put a parallel to the trainings and games to see how the players are implementing the information of coaches, how coachable they are, how they are taking and processing some of those ideas was very valuable for us in the evaluating process.”
With so many connections with the players already, the ninth head coach of the USWNT commented:
“First, FC Kansas City will always have a special place in my heart. So many great memories and great experiences with FC Kansas City. In Utah, we went looking at three groups. So, one group of players were already on the national team, so we didn’t evaluate them, we analyzed them and then we evaluated the players we had on the list. It was a certain group of players we feel had the potential to be on the national team. That was evaluated and then we had a group of players that was not on the national team or is not on the list,but its a surprise of the tournament and that’s the players we were looking at as well. That’s why with players like Becky Sauerbrunn or Megan Rapinoe, Allie Long and all those players we didn’t necessarily evaluate them, we were more analyzing them and the reason I say we analyze them is because we use that as a platform to help them develop. So what is it that we want them to do that they were not doing in the tournament. So we were constantly in touch with them during the tournament in terms of analyzing their game, sending them videos, getting on calls, zoom calls, meetings, so we can help them throughout the tournament and even after the tournament. Getting back to the question and how it helps, it always helps to know the players, it always helps and that’s why we’re going to this event so we can get to know them even better. Obviously with, you know, Becky [Sauerbrunn] and Pinoe [Megan Rapinoe] and Allie the ones that I have worked with for a long time, it just makes them just a little bit easier.”
Andonovski also commented on the team’s spirit after a difficult summer:
They are disappointed, but they are very well aware of the fact that this is something that we cannot control. And when I say disappointed, its because they are athletes- they are soccer players- they want to be on the field, I mean, I want to be on the field and coach, myself, but we understand that the safety and health of the players and staff and everybody around is more important than the game itself.”
He also talked about his hope to have a camp and have a game sometime soon with their medical staff overlooking the situation, but he remains taking everything week-by-week.
When asked about how the ongoing movement for equal opportunity and equal rights changes how things for coaches on how to work with players because they are getting a bigger platform in sports, Andonovski responded:
“I don’t know if it changes anything because they know we’re 100% with them and supporting all the players. You know, we’re behind them and I’m glad their using their sport as a platform to fight for what they believe in.”
Also commenting on soccer leading the way in the return of sport, Andonovski said:
“I think its extremely important. I’ll take the liberty to say that the Challenge Cup in the NWSL is the first team sport to be back in the States and I thought that was great. In some way, it was a statement that women’s soccer is paving the way in getting things back to normal for whatever normal is at this time.”
Now into his eighth year of being a head coach of professional women’s soccer, he added:
“I don’t know that there is anything special about women’s soccer, but it was just a path I took on early in my career and the fact now that I don’t want to say personally if this is the pinnacle of my career or not, but it is because its the most prestigious job in women’s soccer and I absolutely love it.”
Andonovski had high praise for Liberty High School graduate and former FCKC forward Shea Groom:
“I’m very familiar with the quality of Shea Groom. I was the one that drafted her a few years back for FC Kansas City. And when I went to Seattle, I was the one that actually made a trade to acquire Shea Groom from Sky Blue and the reason I made those two decisions was because of the qualities that I believe Shea has and I’m just so happy to see her that she just keeps on progressing in her career and if she continues with the progress then the national team will be the next step. So hopefully we will see a Kansas Citian on the national team.”
With a good spell as a player and later as a coach in indoor soccer, Andonovski said:
“I don’t really know if it gave me any advantages in the outdoor game, but it definitely shaped me as a coach on the outdoor field. In the indoor game, we know its very dynamic, its quick, its intense, small passes to create to eliminate players and unbalance defense and that’s definitely part of the indoor game that I take into implement in the outdoor game.
Finishing the press conference with how the his degree has helped him:
“I graduated with a management degree from Park University and was able to take other US.. Soccer coaching licenses, National Soccer Association licenses, I was able to take a masters degree of soccer from Ohio University. So there’s so many degrees and classes I was able to take, but obviously for me being able to manage the organization as a group. The management degree that I have, its helped me in different ways to be able to do that hopefully with success.”