Former USWNT forward Sydney Leroux Dwyer has said that the United States won consecutive Women’s World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019 ‘in spite of’ head coach Jill Ellis, not because of her.
Ellis won Best FIFA Women’s Coach awards in both World Cup years and was hailed publicly due to her record as only the second coach in World Cup history – men or women – to lead a team to consecutive titles, following in the footsteps of 1930s Italy boss Vitorio Pozzo.
But Ellis’ popularity among her players and now even her credentials as a top coach have come under increased scrutiny since she opted to step down from USWNT duty last year.
Speaking on The Crack Podcast with former USMNT players Oguchi Onyewu and DaMarcus Beasley, Leroux Dwyer, who was part of the 2015 United States roster but was later overlooked by Ellis upon her return to playing from her 2016 pregnancy, added further fuel to the fire.
The 30-year-old Orlando Pride player suggested that a lack of widespread public messages of thanks and gratitude for Ellis from those who had played under her tells the story on its own.
“I think not hearing much from anyone when she left should probably be enough to let everyone know that [she wasn’t well liked],” Leroux Dwyer commented.
“For me, she coached me since I was 15 years old [for USWNT Under-15 and Under-16, and at UCLA]. I liked her as a person [but not as a coach].
“It wasn’t even tactics because with the national team it was the national team players that dictated how we played. I think we could have won the World Cup without a coach. That’s just how it was. I feel like that’s how it went in 2015 and probably in 2019 if you talk to the girls [who were there].”
Questionable player management and poor off-field communication is believed to have been among the main issues that led to USWNT players expressing concern to then U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati as early as 2017, midway between the two World Cup triumphs.
Leroux Dwyer’s personal experience of Ellis in recent years also reflects that.
“When I was coming back after [giving birth to my son] Cassius, my coach called her and asked her, ‘What’s the situation with Syd?’. And she goes, ‘She had a really poor 2016’,” the player recalled. “I didn’t play a game in 2016, I was pregnant. She already had her mind made up, regardless of how I came back. That just left a really bad taste in my mouth.”
Leroux Dwyer’s struggle to answer when asked if there was a time when she ever had respect for Ellis as a head coach on the field was telling in itself, stating instead that she had liked her more as an assistant to popular Swedish coach Pia Sundhage in 2011 and 2012.
The conversation then moved on to whether Ellis was even qualified to be given control of the USWNT in the first place, with Leroux Dwyer also remarking that her record in 11 years at UCLA was poor when it came to NCAA championships, despite numerous ‘final four’ appearances.
“In 2015 and probably the same thing in 2019, I don’t know, I think people, and I, can say that we won [the World Cup] in spite of her. She is not good for people’s mental health, that’s for sure,” Leroux Dwyer went on to conclude.
“I think the best thing was for her to go and I think Vlatko [Andonovski] is going to do an amazing job. He’s a great coach, he’s a good person and so I’m excited to see what he does with the national team.”