US coach Jill Ellis stepping down after 2 World Cup titles

Sports

FILE – In this July 6, 2019 file photo United States coach Jill Ellis attends a news conference at the Stade de Lyon, outside Lyon, France. A person with knowledge of the situation says Ellis is stepping down after leading the team to back-to-back Women’s World Cup titles. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity Tuesday, July 30, 2019 because the resignation has not been officially announced. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, file)

With two Women’s World Cup titles in hand, U.S. national team coach Jill Ellis says it’s time to move on.

Ellis announced Tuesday that she’s resigning, just more than three weeks after the United States raised a second consecutive World Cup trophy following a dominant and record-setting run. She said she started thinking about stepping away around the start of the year, with the intention of seeing the team through this summer’s tournament.

“It’s obviously been a fantastic run, a fantastic ride,” she said.

Ellis said she wanted to spend more time with her family after more than five years in charge of the team. Currently taking some time off following the victorious monthlong odyssey in France, she said doesn’t know what’s next.

“I just need to take a step back and take it all in and see what next intrigues me and piques my interest,” she told reporters on a conference call.

Ellis, 52, was named coach of the team in 2014 and has led it to eight overall tournament titles, including victories at the World Cup in 2015 and earlier this year. Over the course of her tenure, the United States lost just seven matches.

She will remain with the team for a World Cup victory tour which kicks off Saturday with a match against Ireland at the Rose Bowl. Following the conclusion of the five-match tour in October, she will serve as a U.S. Soccer ambassador for at least a year.

Ellis’ contract was set to expire following the World Cup with a mutual option to extend it through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. U.S. Soccer will begin the search for a new coach after a general manager for the women’s team is named. The federation expects to name a GM soon.

“Jill was always extremely passionate about this team, analytical, tremendously focused and not afraid to make tough decisions while giving her players the freedom to play to their strengths,” U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro said in a statement. “She helped raise the bar for women’s soccer in the USA and the world, and given the history of this program, the level of success she achieved is even more remarkable.”

Ellis’ assistant coach, Tony Gustavsson, is also stepping down after eight years with the team.

Over the summer in France, Ellis broke April Heinrich’s U.S. women’s team record for most games coached. Overall, she has led the team in 127 matches, with 102 wins.

Ellis was named head coach after serving as interim coach following the dismissal of Tom Sermanni. Ellis also served as interim coach after Pia Sundhage resigned in 2012.

She was an assistant to both and was on the staff of the gold medal-winning teams at the Beijing and London Olympics. She also served as head coach at UCLA for 12 seasons.

“When I accepted the head coaching position this was the timeframe I envisioned,” Ellis said. “The timing is right to move on and the program is positioned to remain at the pinnacle of women’s soccer. Change is something I have always embraced in my life and for me and my family this is the right moment.”

The World Cup title in 2015 was the team’s first since winning it all in 1999. Overall, the team has won soccer’s most prestigious tournament four times.

The top-ranked U.S. team has been dominant throughout Ellis’ tenure. The team went undefeated in the 2015 World Cup in Canada en route to a 5-2 victory over Japan in the title match. The United States gave up just three goals over the course of the tournament.

Earlier this month, the U.S. defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in Lyon, France, to claim its second straight championship, after challenging knockout victories over No. 4 France and No. 3 England. The Americans never trailed at the tournament and set records with 26 goals and a 12-game World Cup winning streak dating to 2015. Ellis became the first coach to lead a team to two Women’s World Cup titles.

But there was also disappointment during her time at the helm. The defending champions were knocked out in the quarterfinals in the 2016 Brazil Olympics by Sweden, the team’s earliest departure ever in the tournament.

Ellis said she thought it was important to allow a new head coach to get major tournament experience in the Tokyo Games before the next World Cup.

“I’ve actually worked in three Olympics, so it’s an experience I’ve had, with Pia in Beijing and London, and obviously in Brazil,” she said.

Ellis also said it would be fantastic if she was succeeded by a woman.

The United States is set to play Portugal on Aug. 29 in Philadelphia and on Sept. 3 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The final two matches of the victory tour, set for early October, have not yet been announced.

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