A closer look at the head coaches of the NWSL [Part 2 of 2]
Here is the final part of our look at the eight NWSL coaches and what will likely be the biggest challenge for each coach this upcoming season …
Vlatko Andonovski, FC Kansas City
Vlatko Andonovski was announced as first ever head coach of FC Kansas City on December 5th, 2012. Andonovski is currently an assistant coach with the Major Indoor Soccer League’s Missouri Comets – whose MISL Championship Series game one was attended by the FC Kansas City squad this past Thursday. Andonovski came to the United States after playing six seasons in Europe for various clubs in the First Macedonian Football League including Rbotnicki FC, Makedonija GP and FK Vardar Skopje. In 2000, Andonovski signed with the Wichita Wings of the National Professional Soccer League (indoor) and later played for the KC Comets, California Cougars and Philadelphia Kixx of the MISL in his indoor career. He was selected as an MISL All Star twice.
As a coach, Andonovski has been involved with many youth teams and clubs in the Kansas City area and has won four Missouri State Championships and a youth National Championship. His past coaching positions have included Director of Coaching for Futura FC and Sporting Blue Valley Elite Clubs National League, as well as head coach of the Missouri girls ODP program. Andonovski holds a USSF ‘A’ License and a NCSAA Goalkeeping Diploma.
Biggest Challenge: With FC Kansas City being the first professional women’s team Andonovski will manage, there may be a slight learning curve for him in terms of getting to know the American, Canadian, Mexican and college player pools. However, it seems that he has already put together a well-balanced team. Upon being hired, Andonovski stated in an interview with EqualizerSoccer.com “I have followed [women’s pro soccer] as much as I could, but as soon as the ownership group started the conversation about joining the league I got a little more into it and did a lot of research.” His biggest challenge in terms of his team may be defensive depth, as most of his defensive reserves are relatively inexperienced at this level.
Jim Gabarra, Sky Blue FC
Jim Gabarra will lead Sky Blue FC into its first NWSL season in hopes of returning the team to its 2010 WPS winning form. Gabarra, who was hired by Sky Blue in late 2010, has a breadth of experience coaching men and women, as well as a great playing career at the college, professional and international levels.
Gabarra played forward at Connecticut College from 1978 to 1981 and was later inducted into their Athletic Hall of Fame. After graduation he played for many clubs in the American Soccer League, United Soccer League, Western Soccer League and American Professional Soccer League. Gabarra was a member of the US Men’s National team, earning 14 international caps and playing in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Gabarra was also an outstanding indoor soccer player and played in the American Indoor Soccer Association and Major Indoor Soccer League. Gabarra captained Team USA at the 1989 FIFA Futsal World Championship.
Gabarra began coaching women in 1994 as an assistant to his wife, Carin, the head coach of the US Naval Academy women’s soccer team. His first head coaching position came in 2000 when he was hired to lead the Washington Freedom into the inaugural WUSA season. In Gabarra’s ten years as head coach of the Freedom the team experienced mixed results. They won the WUSA championship in 2003, as well as the W-League championship in 2007, Gabarra resigned as head coach of the Freedom after the 2010 season that included a 10-game winless streak (however the team did make the playoffs).
Ten days later, Gabarra signed on as head coach of Sky Blue FC and led the team to a fifth place finish in the final WPS season in 2011. Sky Blue FC affiliated with the W-League New Jersey Wildcats for the 2012 season with Gabarra taking over as head coach. Kevin McDermott, president of the New Jersey Wildcats, spoke highly of Gabarra last summer, stating in an article for BigAppeSoccer.com that Gabarra is “a proven championship coach who has seen a great deal of success at every level of the game.”
Biggest challenge: News that Jill Loyden will be missing up to three months may be an issue for the Sky Blue goalkeeping situation, but they have signed WPS veteran goalkeeper Brittany Cameron and it looks as though she will start as number one. Barring any other goalkeeping problems, it doesn’t look like Gabarra has any pressing issues he will need to attend to in his team before opening day. However, he will need to work with his strikers – Danesha Adams, Lisa De Vanna and Caitlyn Ford – to establish scoring consistency. It will be interesting to see how Gabarra uses USWNT defender Kelley O’Hara, as she won the MAC Hermann trophy with Stanford as a forward and started her national team career at that position.
Lisa Cole, Boston Breakers
On December 7th, 2012, the Boston Breakers announced that Lisa Cole would return as Breakers coach for the upcoming NWSL season. Cole took over the Breakers at the end of 2011 from her mentor, former 1999 Women’s World Cup winning USWNT coach Tony DiCicco. Cole lead the Breakers to their best regular season record to date, with 11 wins and 3 losses in the 2011 WPSL Elite. The 2012 Breakers will be the first true professional team that the US Soccer Federation ‘A’ Licensed Cole will manage.
Cole has been coaching at the collegiate and semi-professional level for over a decade, starting her collegiate coaching career as an assistant from ’97 to ‘99 at Ole Miss, before becoming the assistant at the University of Connecticut from 2000 to 2003. Cole had her first head coaching job at the University of Rhode Island, where she led the team in 2003 and 2004, before becoming assistant at Florida State in 2005. She was assistant to Tony DiCicco for the 2007 and 2008 seasons for Soccer Plus CT, a WPSL team, and finally became assistant to DiCicco once again with the Boston Breakers from 2009 onwards, before taking over the head coaching position for the 2012 season.
In an interview with Examiner.com in September of 2011, DiCicco spoke highly of Cole’s coaching abilities. “She’s an outstanding coach. Lisa is a very hard worker and she’s very talented, so she’s ready for a head coaching position and will be outstanding. And we need more female coaches, not only in the League, but throughout the sport.”
Biggest Challenge: On paper, Cole seems to have solid attacking and midfield lines, with the likes of Sydney Leroux and Kyah Simon up front and experienced players Heather O’Reilley, Lianne Sanderson, Joanna Lohman, and Mariah Nogueira shoring up the midfield. Cole’s biggest challenge will be putting together an effective defensive line, a challenge that has become tougher in recent weeks with the news of Heather Mitts’ retirement and defender Casey Short tearing her ACL and MCL in Spain with the US U23s. Defensive depth is an issue for the Breakers that Cole must work out before opening day.
Aaron Lines, Western New York Flash
Aaron Lines is no stranger to Rochester and the Western New York Flash. Lines has been coaching the Flash since 2009, when he was hired to lead the team in the USL W-League. In 2010, Lines guided the team to a W-League Championship with an impressive undefeated season, giving the club momentum as it joined the WPS in 2011 as an expansion team. In their first and only season in the WPS, Lines coached the Flash to the WPS championship title and, most recently, led the Flash to the 2012 WPSL Elite Championship title.
Lines has a very extensive list of accomplishments as a player himself, earning 41 senior caps with his native New Zealand national team and many more at the U17, U20, and U23 levels. During his playing career, Lines played professionally in the First and Second German Bundesliga, the New Zealand A-League, the Polish first division, and in the American USL for the Portland Timbers before finishing his playing career in 2006 with the Rochester Rhinos.
Lines voiced his excitement in a recent interview with Rochester’s Your News Now about having Rochester native Abby Wambach in his squad for the season: “To have the just newly announced FIFA World Player of the Year, and Western New York native, Abby Wambach, coming to play in her own backyard is a piece of history right there.”
Biggest Challenge: With the signing of goalkeepers Adriana Franch and Valerie Henderson along with Mexican allocated goalkeeper Pamela Tajonar, WNY seems to have solved the lack of goalkeeping depth that many thought would be a problem earlier this year. With plenty of attacking and midfield talents signed to the current roster, Lines will need to work to balance out his squad to secure things at the back. 21-year-old Canadian Bryanna McCarthy was the only national team defender allocated to the Flash, although the Flash have since added 2010 WPS All-Star Brittany Taylor and WPS veteran Estelle Johnson to their defensive line.
In case you missed the first part, click here to read about Cindy Parlow Cone, Laura Harvey, Rory Dames and Mike Jorden in part one of this series.