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USWNT ready to play first official match under Vlatko Andonovski in Houston

Andonovski has coached the USWNT in a pair of friendlies, but Tuesday’s Olympic Qualifying match in Houston is his first game with real stakes.

HOUSTON — The U.S. women’s national team will have its first official match under new head coach Vlatko Andonovski at BBVA Stadium, taking on Haiti in the group’s first steps toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Tuesday will be the USWNT’s first match in Group A of Concacaf’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Although Andonovski has only been with the team for a couple of months, he feels confident they will be able to overcome their opponents or any challenges that come their way.

“Now in terms of the challenges, every team will present different challenges for us, every team I am sure is prepared for challenges in different ways,” Andonovski said. “But at the same time we are preparing and we have lots of training in the previous two camps,but not enough games so we are all excited and looking forward to the first game and challenges.”

The U.S. has played two matches under Andonovski already, but both were a pair of friendlies played last November. The Stars and Stripes took home wins against Sweden and Costa Rica.

Andonovski has mentioned before that development is important to him, no matter the level of the club or the age of the player. If individuals strive to get better, then the team will be better, he believes. It’s something he has put an emphasis on in his short time with the USWNT.

“I feel like individual should never stop, but at the same time we all understand the importance of team development as well,” Andonovski said. “But I see the individual development like a big piece of it because if we can improve every player individually at least a little bit the team is going to get better as well going forward.”

Megan Rapinoe is no stranger to Andonovski’s style. For the past two seasons, he was her club coach at Reign FC, the National Women’s Soccer League club based near Seattle. She feels the transition from former head coach Jill Ellis to Andonovski has been smooth since almost all of the same players are back. For Rapinoe, it’s just a different person standing on the touchline.

“On-field he is very organized and, you know, meticulous about things so that’s been pretty for us and probably even easier for me just knowing a little bit more of what he wants,” Rapinoe said. “(I’m) just used to (his) cadence and language and all of that, but yea, it’s more of the other stuff, to be honest.”

The USWNT’s first official match under Andonovski will be on a playing surface that he and his players are familiar with. BBVA Stadium is home to the Houston Dash of the NWSL and Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer.

It’s a pitch that Carli Lloyd knows especially well. The veteran midfielder played three seasons with the Dash and still feels like Houston is her second home.

“There have been a lot of memories here, you know,” Lloyd said. “I have enjoyed my three seasons, built some relationships that have still carried on to this day and love playing at this stadium its great stadium and its just good to be back.”

All in all, the team seems positive about playing in this new era under Andonovski and are anxious to get back on the playing field.

USWNT 2020 Olympic Qualifying Roster (Club; Caps/Goals):

GOALKEEPERS (3): 12-Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC; 3), 18-Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 24), 1-Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 57)

DEFENDERS (6): 7-Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage; 53/0), 19-Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage; 96/24), 11-Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride; 104/1), 5-Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals FC; 125/2), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC; 171/0), 2-Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride; 40/0)

MIDFIELDERS (5): 8-Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 95/19), 9-Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 78/12), 16-Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit; 38/10), 3-Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage; 60/14), 6-Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 15/0)

FORWARDS (6): 17-Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 162/32), 10-Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 288/121), 14-Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage; 14/2), 20-Christen Press (Utah Royals FC; 130/51), 15-Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC; 160/50), 13-Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 21/6)

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