Today, U.S. Soccer announced that Australia head coach Tom Sermanni has been hired to become the next coach of the United States Women’s National Team.
Interim coach Jill Ellis will handle the team’s remaining five friendlies as part of the team’s Fan Tribute Tour before Sermanni takes the reins on January 1.
Sermanni was chosen as the man for the job over more than 30 other domestic and international candidates, including former USWNT coach Tony DiCicco, who led the team to Olympic gold in 1996 and the World Cup title in 1999, and accomplished University of Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum.
Any group of players is going to have its problems, especially when that group is fighting for playing time amongst each other and may not agree with the decisions being made by the coach. The pressure cooker that is the USWNT, a team that is expected to win every game and tournament it plays, adds to that as well.
While the USWNT has been relatively stable over the past few years—certainly nothing like the breakdown that occurred during the 2007 World Cup—there have still been issues to deal with.
Most recently, there was the now infamous Hope Solo Twitter rant in the middle of the Olympic tournament.
However, Sermanni has dealt with difficult situations from his star players before.
In 2011, he expelled the best player on Australia’s team, Lisa De Vanna, from the Australian camp just six weeks before the start of the 2011 World Cup.
While he did eventually bring De Vanna back into the squad, he also showed that no one is above the team and that distractions to the team’s goals are not welcome. Sermanni has also gotten the best out of De Vanna since then, and she is one of the top strikers in the game today.
Whoever the new coach was going to be, he was going to have to integrate a new generation of players into the USWNT squad.
While many of the national team’s players have said they plan on staying, there will no doubt be some major turnover in the squad as eight of the 18 players on the Olympic squad are over 30.
Sermanni’s work with the Australians has shown his dedication to building a team through its youth. In the 2011 World Cup, 18 of Australia’s 21 players were 25 years or younger and five of them were still teenagers.
More recently, Sermanni’s group of young Australians gave the U.S. a serious run for its money in two friendlies in September. The Australians led both games against the U.S. and played fantastic attacking football in both matches. The Americans won 2-1 and 6-2.
Sermanni coached for three seasons in the WUSA, the now-defunct professional soccer league that emerged after the USWNT’s 1999 World Cup victory.
During his tenure as both an assistant coach with the San Jose CyberRays and head coach of the New York Power, he coached USWNT legends Brandi Chastain, Tisha Venturini and Tiffeny Milbrett and current USWNT players Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx.
Immediately after the announcement, two of the most respected Americans in the women’s game had plenty of positive things to say about Sermanni.
ESPN analyst and USWNT legend Julie Foudy told ESPN, “Sermanni has taken a team and done incredible things...Half of the team are 16-year-olds. That is incredibly impressive to me. But what has always impressed me the most about Tom from knowing him personally is he's just one of the stand-up, quality, really ethical, really positive guys that is a wonderful manager of people. I've never met anyone, friend or enemy, that doesn’t just love him."
Former USWNT head coach Tony DiCicco, while obviously upset he did not get the job and taking a few digs at U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, also told ESPN that Sermanni was a good choice.
"I'm going to be honest with you, I thought I was the best candidate and I still do," said DiCicco. "I'm disappointed that [Gulati] thinks so little of American coaches. But it's hard to say for me that he didn't make a good choice. Tom Sermanni is a good choice and can -- as so many of us can -- win with this team."
The search committee that selected Sermanni also included two former USWNT players, Danielle Slaton and footballing legend Mia Hamm. It is tough to think that Sermanni would have been selected without their blessing.
Also, according to ESPN commentator Adrian Healey, a number of the current USWNT players wanted Sermanni as the next coach.
Despite qualifying for the 1995, 1999 and 2003 World Cups, Australia did not win a match.
In the 2007 and 2011 World Cups under Sermanni, Australia made the quarterfinals in each tournament.
Sermanni also led Australia to the 2010 Asian Football Confederation Cup over teams like North Korea, Japan and China.
Now, with the best players in the world at his disposal, Sermanni should be in a good position to take the U.S. forward.
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