The First Game … of Every USWNT Head Coach [Updated]

Photo by Gia Quilap/Keeper Notes

 

Tonight the Vlatko Andonovski era of the USWNT begins as the team faces Sweden and Costa Rica in the final two friendlies of 2019. He’s the tenth person (including all interim coaches) to serve as head coach of the four-time Women’s World Cup champions. So here’s a look back at the “first games” of all the previous USWNT head coaches (including both of Jill Ellis’ first games).

UPDATE FOLLOWING USAvSWE ADDED — see end of post

 

MIKE RYAN
August 18, 1985: USA 0, Italy 1 L
The lineup:
Kim Wyant; Ann Orrison, Denise Bender (capt) (Linda Gancitano), Stacey Enos, Lori Henry; Denise Boyer, Lori Bylin, Sharon McMurtry; Cindy Gordon, Tucka Healy, Kathy Ridgewell
First caps: Everyone!

The story of the original USWNT has been told a few times over the years and has become part of the USWNT legend — a group of 17 players pulled from the four regional teams that played at the US Olympic Sports Festival in summer 1985, sent to Italy after three days of practice together, wearing hastily altered men’s uniforms, and led by an Irish-born metallurgist from Seattle.

The rag-tag squad played four matches in the “Mundialito” tournament in Italy, losing three and drawing one. The Americans lost their first game, falling 1-0 to the host (and missing a PK attempt). Michelle Akers and Emily Pickering scored the team’s very first goals three days later to draw Denmark 2-2 (there are differing reports as to who scored the first-ever USWNT goal), and then the USWNT finished the tourney with losses to England and Denmark.

 

ANSON DORRANCE
July 1986: USA 2, Canada 0 W
The lineup:
Kim Wyant; Betsy Drambour, Lori Henry, Stacey Enos, Debbie Belkin; Emily Pickering, Chris Tomek, Sharon McMurtry Remer (Marcia McDermott), April Heinrichs, Joan Dunlap (Pam Baughman-Cornell), Lisa Gmitter (Cindy Gordon)
Goals by: Dunlap, McDermott
First caps:
Belkin, Drambour, Dunlap, Gmitter, Heinrichs, McDermott, Tomek

Courtesy of Canada Soccer

The following year, US Soccer hired Anson Dorrance, who at that point had led the North Carolina Tar Heels to four national titles in five years. Dorrance’s first match in charge was the first-ever home game for the USWNT, played in Blaine, Minnesota. The game featured a few others firsts — the first win for the Americans, the first clean sheet and also Canada’s first international game. Note that goalscorer Marcia McDermott went to coach the Carolina Courage of the WUSA, work with the Chicago Red Stars during the WPS era and currently serves as technical director for Sky Blue.

 

TONY DiCICCO
January 20, 1995: USA 5, Australia 0 W

The lineup: Briana Scurry; Carla Overbeck, Joy Fawcett, Thori Staples; Kristine Lilly, TIffany Roberts, Tisha Venturini, Julie Foudy; Carin Gabarra, Michelle Akers (Tiffeny Milbrett), Mia Hamm (Sarah Rafanelli)
Goals by:
Akers (2), Gabarra, Venturini, own goal
First caps: None

After serving as one of Anson Dorrance’s assistant coaches for several years (including during the 1991 Women’s World Cup), Tony DiCicco took over the head coach job in 1995, after Dorrance stepped down to focus on coaching at North Carolina. DiCicco’s first games were supposed to be in southern California, but mudslides in the region forced the two matches against Australia to be moved to Arizona.

By the time DiCicco’s tenure as USWNT head coach ended, he had won the 1999 Women’s World Cup and the 1996 Olympic gold medal (the only USWNT coach to win both tournaments). He amassed the best winning record in USWNT history, which was only surpassed last month when Jill Ellis won her 106th international game. DiCicco’s overall record remains the best in program history:

Coach W L T Win % # Gms
DiCicco 105 8 8 90.1% 121
Ryan G 45 1 9 90.0% 55
Sundhage 91 6 10 89.7% 107
Ellis 106 7 19 87.5% 132
Sermanni 18 2 4 83.3% 24
Gregg 2 0 1 83.3% 3
Heinrichs 87 17 20 78.2% 124
Dorrance 65 22 5 73.4% 92
Ryan M 0 3 1 12.5% 4

 

LAUREN GREGG
January 7, 2000: USA 8, Czech Republic 1 W
The lineup: LaKeysia Beene; Thori Staples Bryan (Nandi Pryce), Kelly Lindsey, Michelle French (capt), Danielle Slaton (Heather Aldama); Aleisha Cramer (Aly Wagner), Nikki Serlenga, Jen Mascaro; Sherrill Kester, Susan Bush (Veronica Zepeda), Mandy Clemens (Christie Welsh)
Goals by:
Bush, Kester (2), Mascaro (2), Serlenga, Welsh, Zepeda
First caps: Beene, Kester, Lindsey, Pryce, Serlenga, Welsh

Six months after the historic 1999 Women’s World Cup, the USWNT was without a head coach (DiCicco stepped down after the end of 1999 schedule) and the players were on strike (since US Soccer had not offered an upgraded contract). So former assistant coach Lauren Gregg served as interim coach that January and took a “B” team to Australia for a short tournament. Seven players earned first caps in that tourney, six in the first game.

Despite winning the Australian tourney and having more than eight years’ experience as an assistant coach for the national team, Gregg was passed over for the USWNT head coach position and went on to join the WUSA as vice president of player personnel.

 

APRIL HEINRICHS
February 6, 2000: USA 2, Norway 3

The lineup: Saskia Webber; Joy Fawcett, Kate Sobrero, Nandi Pryce, Brandi Chastain; Shannon MacMillan (Susan Bush), Aleisha Cramer (Aly Wagner), Julie Foudy (capt) (Carla Overbeck), Kristine Lilly; Tiffeny Milbrett (Christie Welsh), Mia Hamm (Alyssa Ramsey)
Goals from:
Hamm, Lilly
First caps: Ramsey

Heinrichs was named head coach right after the January tourney in Australia, becoming the first former USWNT player to coach the team. In her first two matches as head coach, the US women lost both games to Norway as Heinrichs tested both new players and 1999 Women’s World Cup backups. The February 6 game versus Norway turned out to be the final international appearance for goalkeeper Saskia Webber, who went on to play for the Philadelphia Charge and the New York Power in the WUSA.

Under Heinrichs, the US women reached the 2000 Olympic gold medal game, but fell to Norway 3-2 on a golden goal, after coming from behind to tie the game in the final minute of regulation. The USWNT finished 3rd at the 2003 Women’s World Cup, but rebounded to win gold at the 2004 Olympics, the final major tournament with Heinrichs in charge.

 

GREG RYAN
March 9, 2005: USA 1, France 0 W 
The lineup: Nicole Barnhart; Heather Mitts, Kate Markgraf, Cat Reddick, Lori Chalupny; Shannon Boxx, Lindsay Tarpley (Lorrie Fair), Aly Wagner (Angela Hucles); Christie Welsh (Heather O’Reilly), Abby Wambach, Kristine Lilly (capt)
Goals from:
Welsh
First caps: Barnhart (as a goalkeeper)

When April Heinrichs stepped down in early 2005, assistant coach Greg Ryan was named as her replacement. He took a fairly young team to the Algarve Cup in Portugal for his first games in charge — which were also the first USWNT games follwing the retirements of Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm and Joy Fawcett. Ryan also cut Brandi Chastain from the national team.

In his three years as head coach, Ryan lost only one game — the 2007 Women’s World Cup semifinal versus Brazil. But that 4-0 loss and its associated drama cost him the job.

 

PIA SUNDHAGE
January 16, 2008: USA 4, Canada 0 W

The lineup: Hope Solo; Lori Chalupny, Becky Sauerbrunn (Steph Cox), Christie Rampone (capt), Ali Krieger; Shannon Boxx, Leslie Osborne (Angela Hucles), Carli Lloyd (Lindsay Tarpley), Heather O’Reilly; Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach
Goals from:
Rodriguez (2), Tarpley (2)
First caps: Krieger, Sauerbrunn

Hired after the USA’s controversial 3rd place finish at the Women’s World Cup, Sundhage had a very tight window in which to turn the team around before the 2008 Olympics. Kristine Lilly stepped away from the team to have her first child and a few other long-time regulars were injured (and then right before the Olympics, star striker Abby Wambach broke her leg). Sundhage’s first game in charge saw a 20-year-old Amy Rodriguez score her first international goals.

Sundhage led the USWNT to three straight world finals (2008 Olympics, 2011 Women’s World Cup, 2012 Olympics). No other USWNT coach can make that claim. She later coached her native Sweden at the 2015 Women’s World Cup and 2016 Olympics (reaching the final), and is currently head coach of Brazil.

 

JILL ELLIS
October 20, 2012: USA 1, Germany 1 T
The lineup:
Hope Solo; Heather Mitts (Amy LePeilbet), Christie Rampone (capt), Rachel Buehler, Kelley O’Hara (Becky Sauerbrunn); Megan Rapinoe (Heather O’Reilly), Shannon Boxx (Amy Rodriguez), Lauren Cheney (Carli Lloyd); Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach (Sydney Leroux)
Goals from: Wambach
First caps:
None

After winning the 2012 Olympics, Pia Sundhage announced she would be stepping away from the program, and assistant coach Jill Ellis stepped in as interim coach. At that time, she wasn’t interested in applying for the head coach job, so simply managed the USWNT during the remainder of the fall 2012 Victory Tour as US Soccer completed the search for a new coach.


TOM SERMANNI

February 9, 2013: USA 4, Scotland 1 W
The lineup: Jillian Loyden (Nicole Barnhart); Ali Krieger, Christie Rampone (capt), Becky Sauerbrunn (Julie Johnston), Kelley O’Hara; Christen Press (Kristie Mewis), Shannon Boxx (Yael Averbuch), Carli Lloyd; Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan (Sydney Leroux), Abby Wambach (Lauren Cheney)
Goals from: Boxx, Leroux, Press (2)
First caps:
Ertz (aka Johnston), Press

Sermanni, who had twice been head coach of Australia, was named USWNT head coach in fall 2012, but did not coach his first game until 2013. His debut came against his native Scotland and featured the first caps of two current starts of the national team, Julie (Johnston) Ertz and Christen Press, who scored two goals in her international debut.


JILL ELLIS

April 10, 2014: USA 3, China 0 W
The lineup:
Hope Solo; Ali Krieger, Rachel van Hollebeke (Whitney Engen), Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg; Morgan Brian (Abby Wambach), Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe (Tobin Heath), Heather O’Reilly (Christen Press); Lauren Holiday (Kellley O’Hara), Sydney Leroux (Amy Rodriguez)
Goals from:
Leroux, Lloyd (2)
First caps:
None

Just days after US Soccer fired Tom Sermanni, Jill Ellis once again stepped in to serve as the interim USWNT head coach — but this time the title stuck, as she was officially named head coach a month later. In her first game following Sermanni’s sudden dismissal, Carli Lloyd scored twice to reach the 50-goal milestone and the team held China scoreless for the second time in five days.

 

VLATKO ANDONOVSKI
Noember 7, 2019: USA 3, Sweden 2 W
The lineup:
Alyssa Naeher; Casey Short, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Emily Sonnett; Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz (Andi Sullivan), Rose Lavelle (Samantha Mewis); Christen Press (Lynn Williams), Carli Lloyd (capt), Tobin Heath (Mallory Pugh)
Goals from:
Lloyd (2), Press
First caps:
None

Officially introduced as USWNT head coach last week in New York City, Andonovski became the first coach to go directly from coaching in the American pro league to coaching the US women’s national team, and he’s just the second coach to take over the team immediately following a Women’s World Cup victory (after April Heinrichs in 2000).

An explosive first half in Columbus saw two goals from 37-years-young Carli Lloyd as well as Christen Press’ 50th international goal. Lloyd became just the third USWNT player to score for 5 different coaches, after Kristine Lilly (6) and Heather O’Reilly (5). Sweden’s Anna Anvegard made the second half exciting by scoring twice in the last 20 minutes, and Lloyd came close to recording her 9th international hat trick when she stepped up to the PK spot in the 81st minute, but her attempt went over the goal. Press’ goal made her the 12th USWNT player to score 50 international goals.

No first caps came in this match despite Midge Purce and Imani Dorsey being available as subs, but Lynn Williams earned her first cap since April 2018 when she came on a second-half sub for Christen Press, and Casey Short earned her first start in more than a year.

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