The U.S. Soccer Federation has hired Steve Swanson as the head coach of the U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team and Albertin Montoya as the head coach of the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team, U.S. Soccer Women’s Technical Director April Heinrichs announced today. Both coaches will guide their teams into CONCACAF Qualifying for their respective FIFA Women’s World Cups, which will be held in the fall of 2012 with dates still to be determined.
Swanson and Montoya will work under the guidance of Heinrichs and U.S. Soccer Women’s Development Director Jill Ellis, respectively. When Heinrichs and Ellis were hired in January of this year, the goal was to eventually install head coaches for the U-20s and U-17s to run the day-to-day operations for both age groups. This structure will allow Heinrichs and Ellis to focus on the many administrative, scouting and coaching education aspects of their positions while continuing to develop positive relationships with the American youth soccer community.
“This is an exciting time in the girls’ and women’s games here in the U.S.,” said Heinrichs. “We’re clearly still one of the best teams in the world but we have room for improvement. This year’s Women’s World Cup showed us that countries are developing quickly and raising the level of the women’s game around the world. In order for us to continue to be one of the top teams at every level, we must work together for the betterment of our players and teams. In that vein, I’m excited to bring Steve Swanson and Albertin Montoya into our youth national team staff as they are both very talented coaches with the personality and vision to help accomplish these goals.”
Swanson is currently the head coach at the University of Virginia and will stay in that position while guiding the U-20s towards qualifying in the early part of 2012. Swanson, one of the most respected coaches in the college game, has found success at the Division I level at Dartmouth, Stanford and for the past 11 seasons at UVa. He has a 153-61-31 all-time record for the Cavaliers and a 257-124-42 all-time record as a college head coach. He has led his teams to 14 consecutive NCAA playoff berths. This is Swanson’s second stint with U.S. Soccer after serving as head coach of the U.S. U-16 Girls’ National Team and the U.S. U-18 Women’s National Team between 2000 and 2002.
“The goals of developing our top youth players to be able to contribute to our full team in World Cups and Olympics, and to pursue a world championship with the U-20s are tremendous challenges that require the unified efforts of many people in the soccer community,” said Swanson. “I am looking forward to partnering with the players and coaches from all levels to help develop this team to its fullest potential.”
Swanson will lead a U-20 program that historically has had a significant impact on the future Women’s National Team. Numerous players who have made a major impact on the full national team have represented the USA at past FIFA U-19 and U-20 tournaments, including 2011 FIFA World Cup players Heather O’Reilly, Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Amy Rodriguez, Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan. The most recent example is Morgan, who scored the winning goal in the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Final, and also scored in both the semifinal and championship game of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“I have been impressed with how Steve’s teams play and how his players improve during the course of a season,” said Heinrichs. “He is a passionate teacher, an avid learner and great at developing players. As the new leader of our U-20s, Steve will be charged with bridging the gap in player development for youth players who aspire to play on the senior women’s national team. Along the way, he will build our U-20s into a team that plays out of the back and builds our attack with confident, technical players, while organizing the team to play on the same page defensively.”
Montoya, who is the director of coaching for the youth club MVLA (Mountain View, Los Altos, Calif.) will also stay in that position while guiding the U-17s. Montoya’s coaching experience includes working with players as young as seven up to the two seasons he spent as head coach of FC Gold Pride in Women’s Professional Soccer. He guided the star-studded squad to a regular season title and league championship in 2010.
“It has been a dream of mine to be involved with U.S. Soccer since I was a young player myself,” said Montoya, who played for the USA in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Italy in 1991. “My goal growing up was to play in a youth World Cup and that experience meant a lot to me. The experiences I had with our youth national teams helped me become a much better person and coach and to be able to give back to the Federation that gave so much to me is a privilege. I want to make a difference in these kids’ lives like my coaches did for me and now that I have this opportunity, I am very grateful for it.”
Montoya is one of the country’s most respected youth girls’ coaches and is known for developing teams and players with high technical and tactical levels. He was a first-round draft choice of the San Jose Clash in Major League Soccer in 1998 before suffering a career-ending knee injury. He has coached with the women’s programs at both Santa Clara and Stanford University and for years was co-head coach of the Sacramento Storm, one of the top women’s amateur sides in the country.