Jill Ellis Resigns as USWNT Coach

Written By Peter Nolan on July 30, 2019 - Last Updated on July 31, 2019

Two-time Women’s World Cup winning coach Jill Ellis is stepping away from the USWNT, according to Jeff Kassouf of Equalizer Soccer.

Ellis will still remain with the team through their five game victory tour this summer.

According to Equalizer, Ellis is stepping down of her own accord. Neither Ellis nor USSoccer has released a statement as of this writing.

Jill Ellis USWNT coaching record

After an interim stint as manager, Jill Ellis was appointed as permanent coach of the USWNT in May 2014.

From there, she guided the national team to two World Cup titles (2015, 2019). She won CONCACAF and FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year honors in 2015.

Was Jill Ellis a good coach?

Frankly, yes.

Ellis has her critics. The 2016 US Olympic finish — the worst-ever for the team — is a blot on her resume. However, the English born manager has to be credited with keeping the US program on track to win this year’s World Cup despite a swirl of publicity relating to the team’s Equal Pay Lawsuit against USSoccer, as well as the back and forth between co-captain Megan Rapinoe and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Ellis’ near-constant experimentation, which continued up to the World Cup semifinal and final, had some critics scratching their heads. In particular, her decision to start Sam Mewis over Lindsey Horan raised howls of protest among the USWNT cognoscenti and casual fans alike. But Ellis had the last laugh, as Mewis performed very well on the biggest possible stage.

In the wake of that 2016 Olympic disappointment, Ellis set about broadening the USWNT’s playing style, a process that led to more than a few bumps in the road. Ellis sought to turn the U.S. into more of a possession-based side, rather than a team that got by on speed, strength, and athleticism.

Ellis, now 52, felt that the likes of 2016 Olympic Champions Germany, along with France, and England, among others, were too good to beat with that approach – and so began a three year “Mad Scientist” phase for the coach.

She tried and discarded a three-back set featuring career-long midfielder Allie Long. Ellis sometimes struggled with a problem most of her rival coaches would have given their eye teeth to try solving: what to do with so many fantastic players?

By the time the World Cup rolled around this June, Ellis had settled on playing dynamic attacker Crystal Dunn at left fullback, even though Dunn can be a nightmare from the forward or attacking midfield position.

Ellis landed on Julie Ertz as the team’s defensive midfielder, although she teased the possibility of using the Best 11 World Cup 2015 defender in the back right up until the WWC kicked off.

Silky smooth attacking midfielder Rose Lavelle emerged as one of the rising stars of the women’s game. A share of the credit has to go to Ellis, who never wavered in her belief that Lavelle, despite missing considerable time through injury in the World Cup buildup, could bring that something different the USWNT was lacking.

Ellis also stuck to her guns when she decided that Alex Morgan flanked by Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath was her best front line, despite the presence of Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, and Mallory Pugh.

Jill Ellis USWNT coaching record

Ellis, a longtime assistant who took over from Tom Sermanni in May 2014, walks away as the only coach to have won the Women’s World Cup on two occasions.

She retires with an outstanding record of 102 wins, 7 losses, and 18 ties.

Ellis, who coached more games than any other USWNT coach, will take charge of the team through its five-match Victory Tour, beginning Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, when the World Cup Champions face the Republic of Ireland.

Who will be the next USWNT coach?

There is no obvious successor in place, as Ellis was when the decision to terminate Sermanni was made.

And then we have the issue of the General Manager. As with the Men’s National Team, USSoccer has created a system in which the person named to the newly created position of General Manager will lead the coaching search.

Earnie Stewart was eventually named as the GM on the Men’s side, after a delay that left the USMNT rudderless for a long year, before Gregg Berhalter was finally named.

That cannot happen with the women’s team, not with the 2020 Olympics just around the corner.

Given the proximity of the Olympics and the increased investment in the women’s game by a number of the traditional European powers – seven of the eight quarterfinalists were European – whoever takes on the mantle of GM needs to nail this hire.

It really is difficult to speculate on the next coach without knowing the identity of the GM but with all 23 of the U.S. World Cup Team coming from the NWSL, it makes sense to look to the domestic league for Ellis’ likely replacement.

The most respected and experienced coaches in the league are Paul Riley, of North Carolina, Vlatko Andonovski of Seattle, and Laura Harvey, of the Utah Royals. Jim Gabarra is out the league at the moment but he has a long career in U.S. Women’s soccer behind him and could possibly emerge.

We will be keeping an eye out for future developments.

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Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan has been on the soccer beat for many years now, covering the United States Men's and Women's teams, from the SnowClasico to Azteca and back again. Along with the US national teams, Peter will provide insight into the MLS and NWSL, with a focus on the NY Red Bulls and NYCFC.

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