Sam Kerr and Matildas caught in fallout as Emma Hayes confirmed as US women’s coach

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Emma Hayes alongside Sam Kerr and Tony Gustavsson.

Rumours are swirling over the club football future of Matildas star Sam Kerr after Emma Hayes was confirmed as the new US women’s coach on Wednesday. Matildas boss Tony Gustavsson was overlooked for the vacant job, with Hayes getting the gig after leaving Chelsea.

Hayes revealed the bombshell news earlier this month that she was stepping down as Chelsea manager, where she has worked with Aussie star Kerr for a number of years. “This is a huge honour to be given the opportunity to coach the most incredible team in world football history,” Hayes said in a statement on Wednesday (Aussie time).

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“The feelings and connection I have for this team and for this country run deep. I’ve dreamed about coaching the USA for a long time so to get this opportunity is a dream come true. I know there is work to do to achieve our goals of winning consistently at the highest levels.”

The financial terms of her contract haven’t been made public, but US Soccer said Hayes is set to become “the highest paid women’s soccer coach in the world.” The 47-year-old from England had announced this month that she was leaving the defending Women’s Super League champions at the end of the season to “pursue a new opportunity outside of the WSL and club football.”

Hayes has won 14 major trophies at Chelsea, including six WSL titles, with Kerr helping her achieve many of them. Hayes will take over from Vlatko Andonovski, who resigned as US coach following their failure to make the round of 16 at the recent Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand – the first time they had ever suffered that fate.

But she won’t take over the four-time World Cup champions until May, leaving her with very little time to prepare the team for the Paris Olympics in late July. Interim coach Twila Kilgore will continue to lead the team until Hayes’ arrival after the WSL season ends, and then she will become one of her assistant coaches.

Hayes previously coached in the US with the Long Island Lady Riders and Iona College. She was also in charge of the Chicago Red Stars in the inaugural year of the Women’s Professional Soccer league in 2008 and previously served as technical director of the New York Flash.

“I fully understand the place this team has in US society. I’ve lived it,” she said. “I remember being a young coach working my way up through the system in the US and watching all those young girls aspire to play on the US Women’s National Team. For me, the honour in building on that legacy is part of my motivation, no question.”

Sam Kerr, pictured here with Emma Hayes at Chelsea in 2021.

Sam Kerr and Emma Hayes at Chelsea in 2021. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Tony Gustavsson misses out on US women’s coaching job

Hayes’ appointment comes as a blow for the Matildas on multiple fronts considering it will undoubtedly make the US team even more formidable at the Olympics. The Americans will be one of Australia’s major rivals to claim the gold medal in Paris.

It is also unclear how Hayes’ departure will affect Kerr and her future considering it was Hayes who lured her to Chelsea. Some have suggested she will look for a move to an American club to be closer to new fiancee Kristie Mewis.

It will also be a personal blow for Gustavsson considering he was keen on the US job – which is considering the top coaching gig in women’s football. But the fact the Swede is sticking around to continue leading the Matildas is huge for Australia.

Gustavsson helped the Matildas achieve Australia’s best result at a World Cup ever (male or female) when they finished fourth earlier this year. It marked the first time an Aussie team had ever reached the semi-final stage of a football World Cup.

Tony Gustavsson.

Tony Gustavsson looks on during a Matildas game. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The 50-year-old is contracted to the Matildas until the end of 2024 and has given every indication he’s committed to guiding the team to the Paris Olympics. “When we had a great World Cup, I’m proud to be talked about for a job like that (the US job). It’s one of the biggest jobs in the world in terms of the finance and interest and all that,” he said last month.

“But this (being Matildas coach) for me is also the biggest job in the world, and working with this team look at what we’ve done. What I’ve said then and say now is this is my full focus. I love working with this team.

“I have one year left on my contract and all coaches know here that we’re never better than our last game. If we underperform in this tournament all of a sudden, I’m probably a very bad coach.”

with AAP

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