On Tuesday, U.S. Soccer announced that Scotsman and current Australia head coach Tom Sermanni will take over for the departed Pia Sundhage as the coach of the United States women’s national team.
The decision was a little bit of a surprise, as there were several qualified American coaches who wanted the job, but Sermanni’s résumé is impressive and his selection appears to be a good choice.
Sermanni brings 13 years and three World Cups worth of international head coaching experience and also coached for three years in the now defunct WUSA.
Sermanni will officially take over the team on January 1; interim head coach Jill Ellis will handle the remaining five matches of the USWNT’s Fan Tribute Tour.
In the meantime, here are three things USWNT fans can expect Sermanni to bring to the team when he takes over the reins.
First and foremost, the players are excited to have Sermanni as the coach.
Many of the current USWNT players immediately took to Twitter to congratulate their new coach and show their support for the decision.
And while some of that may certainly be some early butt-kissing as players angle to put a good foot forward with their new coach, the praise seems overwhelmingly genuine.
Multiple sources reported that the U.S. players wanted the new coach to be someone who would come in and "crack the whip," and Sermanni seems more than capable of doing that.
During his work with the Australian national team, Sermanni has shown an intolerance for unnecessary or distracting dramatics, exactly what the USWNT players seems to be asking for.
If USWNT fans are expecting wholesale changes under Sermanni, they will be disappointed. But with the success the USWNT team has experienced, wholesale changes are unwarranted. In many respects, Sermanni will simply be continuing the work begun under former coach Pia Sundhage.
In terms of a coaching style, Sermanni will be similar to Sundhage. He has a reputation as an excellent "man-manager" and creating a good team environment, the same things that Sundhage excelled at.
Sermanni has spoken about "positive possession," the philosophy of focusing on technical development over physical development and recognizing the fact that while the U.S. is still the best side in the world, the rest of the world is rapidly catching up.
Sundhage also sought over the past few years to upgrade the U.S.’ playing style, relying less on the direct/athletic style that made the U.S. so successful and bringing the U.S. more in line with the possession-style dominating world football at the moment.
At the same time, Sundhage realized that while improving the U.S.’ style of play was important, the U.S.’ athletic advantage, especially with a forward like Alex Morgan, still made playing direct worthwhile at times.
In terms of formations, Sermanni has most recently been using a 4-3-3 with Australia. However, he said in an interview with U.S. Soccer that he is not wedded to any one system of play, but wants to put the team in a position to best maximize its talent.
This will be similar to Sundhage, who played the U.S. in a 4-3-3 in 2011 World Cup qualifying, a 4-2-3-1 coming out of the 2011 World Cup and a 4-4-2 in the 2011 World Cup and 2012 Olympic tournament, showing she was of the same philosophy—that regardless of a team’s formation, results were the most important.
The one thing that U.S. fans can definitely get excited about with Sermanni—if the U.S.' recent friendlies against Australia are any indication—is that Sermanni knows how to get a team to play devastating counter-attacking football.
One of the things that Sermanni was well known for with his work with the Australian national team was youth development.
The current U.S. squad has eight players over the age of 30, and there are serious questions as to whether many players representing the core of the squad will be still playing at a high enough level in 2015, the year of the next major tournament for the USWNT.
By the 2015 World Cup, Hope Solo will be 33, Christie Rampone will be 40, Heather Mitts 37, Amy LePeilbet 33, Shannon Boxx 38 and Abby Wambach 35.
The next three years will be a serious period of development for the USWNT, and Sermanni will need to start taking a look at some new options very soon.
Crystal Dunn, Julie Johnston and Kealia Ohai shined with the U-20 team that recently won the U-20 World Cup, and there are several players like Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg and Christen Press who barely missed this summer’s Olympic squad.
Lindsey Horan, who recently skipped out playing NCAA soccer for the University of North Carolina to sign a reported six-figure deal with Paris St. Germain, is another option for the squad.
With countries like Germany, Australia, France, Japan, Brazil, Sweden and even Canada closing the gap on the United States, youth development will be key.
The Fan Tribute Tour, a 10-game celebration tour of the USWNT’s gold medal, organized by U.S. Soccer, has been fantastic, but it has also shown how countries like Australia and Germany are chomping at the bit to knock the U.S. off the top perch.
When Sermanni takes over on January 1, the U.S. squad needs to forget about its past successes, and former coach Pia Sundhage’s successes and begin to move forward.
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