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January 17, 2020

Vlatko Andonovski

Chicago, Illinois

THE MODERATOR good afternoon, or good morning and happy Friday and thanks for joining us for the conference call with Vlatko Andonovski to, of course, discuss the naming of the 20-player roster for the upcoming Olympic qualifying tournament, as well as the tournament itself.

Q. Hard choices, but what were the deciding factors for Mal Pugh and Tierna Davidson as far as not making the rosters and especially Tierna's case, how much of that was difficult?
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: Yeah, making this roster was highly competitive. It physically, mentally to compete for every roster spot, and in the end, the ones that I believe will give us a best chance to win and qualify for the Olympics are the ones that made roster.

Now, in this particular case with Tierna and Mal, Tierna was injured and she did not practice or train with the team throughout the camp, so it was hard to evaluate her, and from all indications, she would not be able to play a 90-minute game until middle of February. So that's the main reason why she's not on this roster.

While Mal on the other side, it was competitive and she did well, but there were other players that I believe that performed better than Mal. Now, by saying that, I want to be clear that she's very good, very talented player. She performed well and she has a big future in front of her. I'm pretty sure if she keeps on developing going forward, she will be on this roster.

THE MODERATOR: To clarify, Tierna is recovering from an ankle injury, and that's why she didn't train as much.

Q. Following up on Mal's situation, a lot of people think she's been a little slow in her development, even though she's very young. What areas do you see with her that need to catch up a little bit in order to regain a regular place on the national team?
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: For Mal, not just for Mal, but being a pro soccer player has its ups and downs. You know, sometimes you win games and sometimes you lose, but also, as a player, sometimes you are in a form or sometimes out of form.

For Mal, consistency is crucial for being on this roster. She needs to be more consistent on a day-to-day, which is extremely hard. And, in fact, just because of her potential or how good she can be, I invited Mal to come and train with us, even though she's not on the roster, because as a coaching staff, we want to be there for her and we want to provide the best opportunity for her to develop and monitor her development going forward.

Q. I was hoping you could take me through what you see from Carli Lloyd, both relative to how she is at her best, and how much her history of success plays a part in how you think about her role for the 2020 team.
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: Yes, when it comes down to any player, not just Carli Lloyd, into constructing this roster, I didn't want to look at the age, whether they are old or young. It was about whether they can do it or not, whether they are good or not.

Carli Lloyd certainly proved that she is good enough, and her mentality and training was absolutely incredible and a true example of what a pro competing for a national team spot needs to look like. She was first on the field, last off the field, and she performed at her best every minute she spent on the field.

I think that her performance is extremely valuable, but also her experience is extremely valuable. She played great under pressure. She scored decisive goals. I think that all of those components make her very valuable for this team, at least for the qualifiers, and hopefully we qualify. I think that she will be important for the Olympics going forward, as well.

Q. Yesterday was a little crazy with the draft. Have any of the players that have wound up on new teams gotten back to you, even though the trading before the draft, as far as you'll be handling the players via the national team, as well?
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: I did reach out but for different reasons; before the draft started, to some of the players in terms of communicating about their future with the national team, but once everything settles down, I'm pretty sure I will talk to some of them about their future on the team.

Now talking about craziness in the draft, it was a busy draft, and as a former MASL coach, I do miss the draft. I think it's a great event, but at the end, it seemed like all the coaches did a good job and made some good decisions for their teams.

Q. Following up on what you said with Mal, did she accept the invitation to train with the team? And I just wanted to know what the qualities were, what you saw in Andi Sullivan and Lynn Williams since they are the two new ones who are not part of the World Cup that are on the Olympic qualifying team.
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: Yeah, so first, the first part of the question with Mal, I was actually very happy the way she answered the question when I invited her to come in camp. That tells me that her mentality is the right mentality for this group, for this team, for this environment, because she said she will do whatever it takes and she wants to be part of the group and she will take every opportunity to get better, which is a great mind-set to have coming into it.

Now, the second part of the question, Lynn Williams and Andi Sullivan. Lynn Williams, because of something that probably not many players on the team if you look at the roster right now, and especially if she plays at 9, she is a big complement to Carli. Carli is very sophisticated with runs and good goal-scoring, where Lynn Williams is a little more of an open-field player where she is able with her speed and agility to get behind the back line. So that way, we just add another weapon to the team. But ultimately, we make it more dangerous and we give more opportunities and different ways to solve challenges that the teams throw at us.

Now, in terms of Andi Sullivan, I think that she has been developing well. She performed well in camp, and if you look at our midfield, they are all versatile players to some extent, and if we use Julie Ertz as a center back, as a defender, at any point in time, Andi Sullivan can fall into that play in front of Julie Ertz in the middle probably and fulfill that test the best.

Q. I wonder if you can give us a little insight into how you are managing the Alex Morgan situation in that she kind of expressed an interest in playing but she's obviously got more on her mind now, but are you keeping that conversation going with her, or are you just going to put it off and assess it when the time comes?
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: First, yeah, personally I am in touch with Alex, and we are monitoring everything, how she's doing and the whole process. Obviously everybody would love to have Alex Morgan at her best. She's an incredible better, and we would love to have Alex at her best back on the team.

Now, at this time, I think as you point, we don't have to talk much about it because we want to wish Alex the best in her pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby. Once the time comes, we're going to focus a little bit more on it and see what the timing looks like for Alex and the team.

Q. I wanted to ask about Carli. Through last year, throughout the world cup, even in advance of the warm-up World Cup, she was insistent she was capable of being a starter. Is that opportunity available to her at this point? Is that a job she's capable of winning for you?
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: Every player that was in the January camp had an opportunity to be a starter or still have an opportunity to be a starter. I think that even if you ask the players, they will tell you that they all had an equal opportunity, not at any point in time there was a set team or set player that was a target or no target. Everybody had an equal opportunity. Everybody had a chance to perform at their best, and that was the goal, to see the players at their best with equal opportunity.

Now, Carli did very well, and I was very happy with her performance. I just wish that she continued performing like that in the next camp leading to the first qualifying game, and if she does that, I see no reason for her not to be a starter.

Q. Obviously in winning the World Cup, there was a pretty established formation, 4-3-3 that was used pretty much the whole way. Do you have a handle on how you want to do it?
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: I certainly have a handle how we want to do it, and we are going to be practicing a couple of different formations. I hope to master the team in a couple of different formations and be ready for the challenges that the teams are putting ahead of us and as we move forward. It will pretty much be a game-to-game basis.

Q. Two others not on the roster that have been in the mix, Allie Long and Morgan Brian, you talked about inviting Mal to camp. I'm curious what the conversation was with Morgan Brian and Allie Long and what the immediate future looks like for them, with whether they had the same invite?
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: Yeah, so with Allie Long and Morgan Brian, the decision came down to the structure of the roster, and if you look at it, we have six defenders, five midfielders and six forwards. So the opportunity for the midfielders was a little bit less than the forward and defenders.

I had a good conversation with both of them, and we have a scheduled follow-up with both. Bottom line is there are certain things that I feel that they can do better, and definitely the opportunity is there for them. They are both great players, and we still growing to their best and how good they can be. So now it's on them and the club environment and ourselves to help them reach their best.

Q. Following up on the Allie Long thing, the fact that she played for you, was it difficult, or how difficult was it for to you tell her, hey, you're not going to be on the roster for this event?
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: Every time you call a player and tell that she didn't make the roster, didn't make the team, it's difficult, whether it was Allie Long or anybody else that was in camp, it was difficult for me.

You know, Allie Long, like you said, she played for me for two years and I consider her a friend, and it was extremely difficult, but like I said earlier, it's what I believed is the right thing to do, and the players that I picked are the players that I believe give us the best chance to be successful.

Now, I also believe that Allie does have qualities to be a world-class player, and she proved that especially in 2018 when she came to Seattle. I think that she was one of the best midfielders in the League.

Q. Crystal Dunn, she is listed as a defender. Is she going to be a defender the rest of the way towards the Olympics, assuming the team makes the Olympics, or might be there leeway to move her to an attacking role?
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: Yeah, if you look at the roster, many of the players are very versatile players, and that also played a role into constructing the roster, and Crystal's ability to play as a left back, but also her ability to play as an attacking midfielder, even forward, is what makes her extremely valuable for this team.

Now, going forward, at least for now, she's a defender, but going forward, I would not be surprised if I see her in any other role.

Q. I wanted to ask about Megan Rapinoe and what role you see for her in the upcoming Olympics, and have you had any discussions with her or the team in generally regarding policies on protest at the Olympics?
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: So Megan Rapinoe, she's the best player in the world, and at her best, she's extremely valuable for the team. She came in camp ready to perform, mentally refreshed and ready to play.

I will say she did not train the whole time because she had a couple of nicks that she has to take care of medically, but overall, I think that her performance in camp showed that she's very valuable for the team.

In terms of the protests, I did not have a chance to talk to her or anyone on the team, but I'm sure they have a plan going forward what they are going to do with it.

Q. In terms of players like a Sophia Smith and Ashley Sanchez, and seeing them come out of college earlier, it seems there's more appetite for that amongst younger players, what your reaction is to that and how you are talking to players about that.
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: Yeah, so you know, looking at the players, or young players, whether they are in college or coming out of college, you'll see that there's different tests in terms of their development, and for different players, different things work out.

I think ultimately, it's important that they know what's best for them. They are well informed what's best for them and they all need to do what works best. For some of them, it's college, and for some of them, it's straight into the professional ranks. It cannot be one thing that works for everyone.

Q. I was wondering if you could say a few words about Jane Campbell and the progress you saw from her during camp?
VLATKO ANDONOVSKI: Yes, Jane Campbell in this camp was very good, and I had a great conversation with Jane and our goalkeeper coach, Philip Poole, also had a great conversation. I think she understands that we're very pleased with her and she showed that she belongs in this group.

But if you look at the competition that she goes against, it's very good, as well. There are some great goalkeepers ahead of her, and great goalkeepers with great experience ahead of her.

So at the end, like I said, she's really done a great job and that makes me happy that we have young goalkeepers that are ready to step in at any point in time. But at the same time, I'm happy to see that because that pushes the goalkeepers that are on the team to be their best every minute they spend on the field.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks everyone for being on the call.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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