Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski talks about World Cup impact
Allie Long was on the bubble.
As speculation grew earlier this year about who would be on coach Jill Ellis’ squad for the Women’s World Cup, Long was busy rehabbing a knee injury and hoping to get a chance to be on the United States team that would play in France.
When the callups for January’s international friendlies were announced, Long’s name was no where to be found. And she also missed out on being on the roster for the SheBelieves Cup in February and March.
Setbacks in an attempt to make an impression on Ellis, for sure. But Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski was confident that Long was going to make the roster.
The two had worked together in the offseason with tactical drills and the rehab she needed after partially tearing the posterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during the Reign’s 2-1 loss in the NWSL semifinals against the Portland Thorns on Sept. 15.
“Allie was more nervous than I was but I get it, I’m not the one going on the team and she is,” Andonovski said. “I never had any doubt that she wasn’t going to be on the team .
“Maybe I was looking at it from a coaching perspective because that’s a player that deserves to be there and that’s a player who has the skills to be on the team.”
As May 2 approached, the date that Ellis would reveal her team, Long felt like she had done enough to earn a spot on the World Cup team for the first time. She came off the bench in April for games against Australia and Belgium.
Then came the phone call the 31-year-old midfielder had been waiting for.
“When Jill (Ellis) called me on the phone, I was with my husband and she sounded so happy and I was thinking this could either be good or bad, but her sounding happy made me a little calmer,” Long said.
“When she told me I made it, I told her to stop playing around; are you serious? Then I thanked her and then I think I started crying. Yeah, I started crying.”
Long called her parents and not long after that, she had to contact Andonovski. She said she had to text him because she was crying too much to make a phone call.
“I text her and say, ‘When you’re done crying and have the time to call me,’” Andonovski said. “Later on in the day she calls me and I joked around saying that she had been crying all day. Then she said yes, I have been crying on and off all day.”
Long is one of eight players from Reign FC that will be participating in the 2019 Women’s World Cup, which begins Friday. The U.S. begins play on Tuesday, playing its first pool play game against Thailand.
There are two players on the US team: Long and forward Megan Rapinoe. Three Reign players are playing for Australia: goalkeeper Lydia Williams, defender Steph Catley, and midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight. Celia Jiménez-Delgado will represent Spain as a defender, Rumi Utsugi represents Japan and Jodie Taylor will play for England.
Long told the Associated Press that having played 42 international games (scoring six goals ) and being on the team that reached the quarterfinals at the 2016 Rio Olympics was a key factor in obtaining a spot on the final 23-person roste.r
“I think that, well, No. 1, playing in the Olympics and (Ellis) seeing me in that environment, and just being on the team the last three years has given her a comfort level in knowing what she has in me,” Long told the AP. “I think that I can offer consistency, and I’m someone in the midfield who can calm it down and just keep possession on the ball and win tackles off the ball.”
And it didn’t hurt that she played five seasons on the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, where she played with Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan, all of whom are also on the team
“World Cups aren’t moments to invest in players, World Cups are about winning,” Ellis said in a conference call with reporters when her roster was announced. “So I think experience, for any coach, is going to weigh heavily in some of these decisions for sure.”
Long said be able to play in the World Cup is the pinnacle of her career and one she wished her grandfather, George Moore, could have shared.
In a video by U.S. Soccer as part of the “One Nation. One Team. 23 Stories” series, she details how Moore nurtured her soccer career. From helping fund a trip for her and her mother to see the U.S. Women’s National Team play at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta to giving her soccer articles and watching movies about the sport when she was a child, Moore helped Long build a love for the game.
Last winter, as she began her offseason work, Moore developed pneumonia. Long was able to speak to him one last time before he died. While preparing to speak at his funeral, she talked to her mother about how Moore helped shaped who she is today.
“I remember calling my mom and asking, ‘(Why) did he love soccer so much and why did he spend so much time with it?” Long said in the video. “My mom said that he loved it but it was to inspire you. Then it hit me: He planted these seeds and used it as motivation for me — not forcing it but he just did it.
“I just thought he loved soccer and we shared that passion together but to know he did that for me is just so powerful because I just look at my whole path and I see him in every step of that.”