May 27, 2014, 8:41 PM EDT
In a move that had been quietly rumored since Jill Ellis’s appointment, Tyresö FF head coach Tony Gustavsson — a candidate for the permanent head coaching position vacated by Tom Sermanni’s firing — will join the U.S. Women’s National Team staff, resuming the full-time assistant’s position he held under Pia Sundhage. Scheduled to join the team for June’s friendlies against France, the 40-year-old Gustavsson becomes the latest part of the U.S.’s attempt to turn back the clock, with the former Hammarby IF men’s head coach having sat on Sundhage’s bench during the States’ 2012 gold medal run.
Gustavsson is coming off a two-year stretch as head coach of Tyresö, where he won the Damallsvenskan title before taking his team to last Thursday’s UEFA Champions League final. Despite that success, which saw the Swedish club come within one goal of eventually champions Wolfsburg, Gustavsson’s departure is part of an expected exodus from the financially-embattled club.
“Tony will be an excellent addition to our coaching staff,” Jill Ellis said, in an announcement distributed by U.S. Soccer. “We have worked together before and I am delighted to have him come on board as we move toward Women’s World Cup qualifying.”
Gustavsson was a prime candidate to for the job Ellis now holds, though as an assistant coach, he will be able to contribute without the overarching commitment that comes with the head coach’s role.
“I’m really looking forward to being back with the U.S. team again,” Gustavsson said, via U.S. Soccer. “I have great respect for these players, their work ethic and their desire to keep progressing as individuals and as a team. I’m excited to contribute to that process through any role Jill asks of me.”
Expect that role to be a big one. Gustavsson’s strengths on the training field and in preparing for opponents are well-respected, as are his accomplishments with Tyresö. Working under a boss that is short on senior-level coaching experience, Gustavsson is likely to play a key role, particularly since his knowledge of nations like Sweden, Germany and other European threats likely exceeds any other candidate.
Before Ellis’s hiring, team captain Christie Rampone said she wanted both Ellis and Gustavsson. What the captain wants, the captain gets. Given his history with the team and recent accomplishment, Gustavsson could become a head coach-like figure on the team, with Ellis playing more of a final say, manager’s part.
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