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Jill Ellis was back in charge of the U.S. Women's National Team Thursday night, for the first time in nearly a year and a half, and everything went as smoothly as she might have hoped or expected. Now she's got to decide if she wants the job for real.
Ellis sparks U.S. Women -- Now She Must Decide if She Wants to Stay
04/10/2014
 
Apr 10, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; USA head coach Jill Ellis prior to  a friendly against China PR at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO -- Jill Ellis was back in charge of the U.S. Women's National Team Thursday night, for the first time in nearly a year and a half, and everything went as smoothly as she might have hoped or expected.

Now she's got to decide if she wants the job for real.


Ellis, 47, grabbed the reins Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after Tom Sermanni's stunning dismissal, helped the team through a difficult few days, then managed them through Thursday's 3-0 rout of China at Qualcomm Stadium.


“We are very comfortable with Jill Ellis,” goalkeeper Hope Solo said after the Yanks completed a two-game sweep of China, the first win coming in Sermanni's final hours as U.S. boss. “She's been around the program for a lifetime. We love Jill, we have a lot of respect for Jill.


“She didn't really miss a beat. She came in, put a pen on the board, and tactically started coaching.”


Ellis, who served as interim coach between Pia Sundhage's September 2012 departure and Sermanni's arrive at the start of 2013, has an extensive resume, with several U.S. Youth National Teams, as an assistant under Sundhage, and in the college game, where she guided UCLA to eight NCAA College Cup final fours in nine years.

U.S. Soccer wants to have a full-time coach in place before the women, building toward next year's Women's World Cup, embark on their summer schedule. Ellis, the federation's development director, pulled her name out of the running when Sermanni was hired in late fall 2012, and now she needs to mull everything over once again.


“It's been a crazy week, and I haven't really had a chance to kind of reflect [on all that's happening],” said Ellis, who flew to Southern California from her Florida home after Sermanni's ouster was announced Sunday night. “I think for me, just going home and taking 24 hours, 48 hours just to think about it and probably having a conversation with Dan [Flynn, U.S. Soccer's CEO and secretary general] and Sunil [Gulati, U.S. Soccer's president] and just figure out where I go from here.”


Solo, for one, would be happy if Ellis got the job.


“I'm always honored to be coached by Jill,” she said. “Every time she has something to say, I think we perk up and really listen, so, yeah, I'd love to see her on board.”


It's been a trying few days for the U.S. Women, who loved playing for the gentle Sermanni, a former Scottish pro who coached in the WUSA and was in charge of Australia's National Women's Team for eight years before taking over for Sundhage. The timing of the announcement -- hours after a victory, just before the team traveled to San Diego from Colorado with another friendly just days away -- was curious. For the players, too.


“I think it worked out better for us,” said Carli Lloyd, who scored the first two goals Thursday night. “We went through a little rough patch after the last game against China, and we were able to still stay together [and have a] few days to come together. ... I think that in itself was really important, to finish this game out, and now we can take a deep breath and leave this team, go on to our NWSL teams and know that everything is going to be all right, it'll work out, and we'll get through it.”


The team got through this, said Sydney Leroux, scorer of the third goal, by sticking to what it knows.

“Our approach is always going to be the same,” said Leroux, who played for Ellis at UCLA and with the U.S. Under-20 National Team. “We're a very resilient team, and, obviously, it was a few hard days for us. And Jill came in, she's awesome, she's very well-respected within the team, and we knew what we needed to do. ...

“We've been dealing with a lot of questions, but at the end of the day, our job is to play soccer and to just play soccer.”


No matter who is in charge.


“I think U.S. Soccer is going to pick the right coach for us,” Lloyd said. “I think we just need some steering. We've got creativity, we've got the will, we've got the passion and desire, so there's no doubt in my mind that whoever comes in next will do fine, and we'll adjust as well.”

 
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