CHICAGO (January 15, 2007) – U.S. Women’s National Team head coach and technical director Greg Ryan has named Jillian Ellis as the new U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team head coach. Ellis will be charged with leading the team that will attempt to qualify for the 2008 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile.
With Ellis taking the helm for the U-20 team, Bill Irwin will take over as head coach of the Under-21 Women’s National Team, which was led by Ellis in 2005 and 2006, as well as in 2000. Both coaches hold U.S. Soccer “A” coaching licenses and serve as National Instructors for U.S. Soccer coaching schools.
“Jill Ellis will do a great job in leading our U-20 team into the next World Championship,” said Ryan. “Her knowledge of the player pool, coaching and player management skills make her perfectly suited to take on this position with U.S. Soccer. I am confident that our U-20’s are in good hands and will excel in the next youth World Cup. Jill and Bill were my assistant coaches at the 2005 Algarve Cup. We worked exceptionally well together then, and I’ll enjoy having them as part of our team once again.”
Ellis, the current head coach at UCLA where she has led the Bruins to five NCAA Final Fours, including last season, won U-21 Nordic Cup titles in 2000 and 2005. Ellis also coached a relatively inexperienced U-21 side to the Nordic Cup title game in 2006, where the team, without numerous players competing with the U-20s, fell to Germany, to break a string of seven consecutive Nordic Cup titles for the USA.
Ellis takes over from Tim Schulz, who led the U-20s to a fourth-place finish at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship in Russia. The U.S. team placed in the top-three of the first two FIFA Youth World Championships, winning the inaugural title in 2002 in Canada under Tracey Leone and finishing third in 2004 in Thailand under Mark Krikorian.
Ellis will hold her first training camp in February at The Home Depot Center, but will have more than a year and half to prepare a team for the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup (dates are TBD) and to formulate a roster that will have to navigate qualifying to earn one of the three CONCACAF spots at the 16-team tournament. Ellis will lead the U-20s into their first major tournament of this cycle in July at the Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile will mark the second time the event will be held as a U-20 tournament after having been staged as a U-19 event in the first two incarnations. Players born on or after January 1, 1988, are age-eligible for the next U-20 team, meaning three players from Schulz’ squad – forwards Kelley O’Hara and Casey Nogueira and midfielder Tobin Heath – are age-eligible for the next team.
“I’m truly excited and I appreciate U.S. Soccer giving me this opportunity,” said Ellis. “My focus will be on identifying the best players in this age group and preparing the team to win a U-20 Women’s World Cup. It’s a long road to qualifying and then the World Cup, but I am really looking forward to beginning the player evaluation and selection process.”
Ellis takes over a program that carries great importance in the development of future Women’s National Team players as numerous upcoming stars emerged from the 2002 team, including 2004 Olympians Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O’Reilly, and 2004 Olympic Residency Camp participants Leslie Osborne and Lori Chalupny. Several players from the 2004 team, including Amy Rodriguez and Stephanie Lopez, are already making inroads at the higher levels of the U.S. Women’s National Teams, and Ryan called in four members of the 2006 U-20 team to the WNT training camp that began on January 11.
“Through the U-20s, we are building a foundation for our senior team,” added Ellis. “We can’t lose sight of the importance of development, as these players can certainly use this experience to benefit the full Women’s National Team down the line, but right now the priority is building a team that can win the World Cup.”
Irwin has extensive experience as an assistant coach, working with teams at nearly ever level of Men’s and Women’s National Team programs. He has served as goalkeeper coach for the full Women’s National Team and has worked numerous training camps with the U-21 women. Irwin has also worked on the men’s side with the full Men’s National Team, the Olympic Team, the U-20s and U-18s.
Irwin, who is the Director of Soccer at the University of Portland and head men’s soccer coach, took over those positions in 2003 after the passing of the legendary Clive Charles. A long-time professional player, Irwin played 17 years in the pro ranks, including a seven-year career in the NASL with the Washington Diplomats, Dallas Tornado, Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes. Irwin will jump right into the job, holding his first training camp featuring 28 players from January 13-20 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
“Bill Irwin is very familiar with the U-21’s as he has assisted these teams for the past three years,” said Ryan. “His experience in the game both as a player and coach are key qualities that he brings to this team. The U-21 players are one step away from making the U.S. Women’s National Team, and I feel good knowing that Bill will be directing their development.”
With the hiring of Ellis and Irwin, Ryan’s Women’s National Team head coaching staff is set for 2007 with Erica Walsh as the Under-17 Women’s National Team head coach, Kazbek Tambi leading the Under-16 Girls’ National Team and Tad Bobak as the head coach of the Under-15 Girls’ National Team.
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