Jill Ellis returned to Los Angeles on Saturday night, nine years after she stepped down as coach of UCLA women’s soccer.
More than 37,000 fans packed the Rose Bowl to watch Ellis and the U.S. women’s soccer national team – the back-to-back Women’s World Cup champions – face Ireland in the first match of their victory tour.
“I have a lot of fond memories in Los Angeles,” Ellis said. “I have memories of watching football games, bringing recruits (to the Rose Bowl) and spending time with my colleagues here.”
And it was the first of the last five games Ellis will coach for the USWNT.
Ellis, who coached the Bruins from 1999 to 2010, went on to coach the USWNT to World Cups in 2015 and 2019 – the latter of which is in the midst of being celebrated with a five-game victory tour. Ellis announced Tuesday her transition from head coach of the world’s No. 1 ranked squad to a position as an ambassador for the team.
“I love change,” Ellis said. “I embrace it. I could have stayed in some places for a lot longer, but I think that’s just part of who I am.”
Before Ellis became the only American head coach to record two World Cup wins, she was a Bruin.
The 52-year-old led UCLA women’s soccer to eight Final Fours and six straight Pac-10 conference titles, finishing her time in Westwood with a record of 229-45-14. Ellis was named the NSCAA/adidas National Coach of the Year in 2000 following a run to the NCAA final in her second season as the Bruins’ head coach.
“I spent 15 years in LA,” Ellis said. “So, it’s great to be back here. It’s a wonderful city, and it’s been really nice to start this tour here.”
At the conclusion of her time with the Bruins, Ellis was appointed USWNT’s development director and oversaw the U-14, U-15 and U-17 girls’ national teams. She held the position until she became the USA head coach in 2014.
Defender Abby Dahlkemper, who played for UCLA from 2011 to 2014, said that she is grateful to have been mentored by Ellis while on the USWNT.
“I think (Ellis) is an amazing coach and she certainly helped me as a player,” Dahlkemper said. “She took me under her wing and cared for me as a person.”
Dahlkemper – who played the most minutes of any American in the World Cup – is one of three former Bruins that held a place on the 2019 USWNT roster. She was joined by midfielder Samantha Mewis, who assisted in scoring the second goal of the night in the USA’s 3-0 win over Ireland, and Mallory Pugh, who tied for third on the U.S. team in goals this year with six and recorded the USA’s first goal of 2019.
Including games in which Ellis was an interim head coach, she has an overall national team record of 103-7-18.
If the USWNT wins three of its four remaining Victory Tour matches, Ellis will retire as the all-time winningest coach in national team history, with 106 – passing former USWNT coach Tony DiCicco’s 105.
“It’s no coincidence that (Ellis) has had the success that she has had,” Dahlkemper said. “The chances she took and the decisions she made were ultimately what gave her two World Cups. She has had a truly amazing career.”
The USWNT’s victory tour game occurred just over 20 years after the United States’ second World Cup win in 1999, which took place at the Rose Bowl and featured Brandi Chastain’s iconic victory celebration immortalized by a statue built in front of the stadium in July.
“The atmosphere was great and the fans were great,” Ellis said. “(The Rose Bowl) is such an iconic stadium to play in, which is why I think it was so special to start everything off here.”