Why NWSL's winningest coach is eyeing new challenges and greener pastures
How would the NWSL's most successful head coach look coaching in the USL? Or, what if he got a chance to make a switch within the NWSL, one that would take him from small-market survival to MLS-linked resources?
In a few weeks, those will no longer be thought experiments. Vlatko Andonovski, the only coach to win two NWSL titles, should face those options soon.
According to sources, the FC Kansas City head coach, who has been on the sideline for every Blues' game since the franchise's 2013 inception, will be in play for multiple coaching positions in the United Soccer League, a league that spans the second and third tiers of U.S. men's soccer.
With a coaching position opening with the Houston Dash, too, Andonovski could also be in position for a big move within the NWSL.
Andonovski has already been the subject of links to the Dash, who have been without a permanent head coach since parting ways with Randy Waldrum earlier this NWSL season. Per both the Dash and Andonovski, no contact has been made between the sides, though multiple sources within the NWSL are confident Andonovski's move to Houston remains highly likely.
Reached for comment, Andonovski said he had not been approached about a move to Houston and remains focused on his team at FCKC, which concludes its fifth NWSL season at home against Houston on Oct. 1.
Per sources within the Dash, the team is intent on approaching its coaching hire the same way it did last year's appointment on the men's side, with MLS’ Houston Dynamo. Then, interim coach Wade Barrett was given a chance to interview for the permanent position, though the appointment eventually went to Wilmer Cabrera.
According to the Dash, current head coach Omar Morales will be interviewed as part of a broad process which will commence its next steps after the NWSL season.
The Dash may have to act fast, though, if it's to keep Andonovski in women's soccer. Having already claimed two titles in the NWSL, Andonovski may be ready to embrace a new challenge, with a potential switch to the USL moving him closer to an eventual Major League Soccer job.
If he chooses to make such a leap, Andonovski would become the first NWSL coach to do so, but the move could come at a perfect time in his coaching career. On a contract with FCKC that ends at the conclusion of this NWSL season, Andonovski will be free to move to another team, with questions around Kansas City potentially influencing his decision. On track to miss the postseason for the second year in a row, the former league powerhouse is becoming dogged by questions of ownership commitment and its ability to meet minimum league standards.
Many players, according to sources, remain with the Blues only out of loyalty to Andonovski.
Having already won multiple titles in the women's game, the Macedonian-born coach could see the men's game not only as a reprieve but as a new challenge, one commensurate with somebody whose ambitions have him pursuing a doctorate in soccer from Ohio University.
At 40 years old, Andonovski is both young enough to make a big move and old enough to want a new test. Though he has established deep roots in the Kansas City area, the chance to jump to USL, especially if his opportunity links him to an MLS team, may prove too good to pass up.
Though the move would be unprecedented for a USL team, it would also not be a tremendous reach, with Andonovski carrying experience managing men from his time coaching indoor soccer. He is also regarded by his NWSL peers as employing one of the most fluid and attractive styles in the league, with his obsessive attention to detail in defense also consistently producing some of the league's best goals-allowed totals.