By CAITLIN MURRAY
After less than 16 months on the job, U.S. Soccer has relieved Women’s National Team head coach Tom Sermanni of his duties, effective immediately.
“We want to thank Tom for his service over the past year and half, but we felt that we needed to go in a different direction at this time,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said Sunday night in a press release. “We will begin looking for a new coach immediately to guide our Women’s National Team toward qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.”
U.S. Soccer Director of Development Jill Ellis will serve as interim head coach, beginning Thursday when the USWNT faces China in San Diego. Ellis had served as interim coach when Pia Sundhage left in 2012 before Sermanni took over in January 2013.
“I’m disappointed that things didn’t work out,” Sermanni said in a statement, “but I’d like to thank U.S. Soccer for the opportunity to have coached this team and also the staff and players for all their hard work.”
Sermanni had coached the USWNT to a 2-0 win over China Sunday afternoon, just hours before the announcement.
Sermanni only lost twice in 24 matches, but his tenure faced its first big turmoil last month when the USWNT finished in a worst-ever seventh-place at the prestigious Algarve Cup. There, the USWNT snapped a 43-game unbeaten streak against Sweden and then conceded a record five goals in a single match against Denmark.
Only then did hints show that players may be losing faith in Sermanni’s master plan. Alex Morgan, who did not play in the Algarve Cup due to injury, pointed to Sermanni’s tendency to rotate starting lineups frequently as a factor for the poor performance.
“I think the girls are a little bit down in Portugal right now, but I think Tom and the coaching staff and the players all need to get together and work something out because the lineup changes could be a factor,” Morgan told media from Portland during the Algarve tournament. “But again, I want them to stay positive. I’ve gotten a lot of texts and calls from them and I really hope to be back with them soon, but they’re going through a rough time and so I hope they pick it back up.”
Wambach echoed those sentiments, telling Sports Illustrated after the tournament: “We haven’t really been really been playing the way we normally play. I think there’s been a lot of factors. I know Tom likes to switch up the lineup quite a bit, which is very different than what we’ve been used to. So, learning how to play with new players game after game, after game, it’s harder to get a rhythm.”
Sermanni had focused his tenure on bringing in rookies, giving 12 players their first caps and calling in new players at a rate of almost a new face per training camp. He also tinkered with lineups incessantly, starting a new lineup almost every game.
But Sermanni told SBI in February his vision didn’t include a set starting 11 and the group of starters would change from game to game during the seven matches of the 2015 World Cup.
“When we go into 2015, I don’t think this World Cup is going to be about a starting 11,” he said. “I think it’s going to be about a squad.”
Under Sermanni, Wambach had seen her role transition as her minutes diminished in favor of young strikers like Sydney Leroux and Christen Press. She told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle last week that she had spoken to Sermanni about the possibility of playing with three forwards, instead of two.
“I’ve been saying it for a year now, that the forwards selected to the roster are all going to have to be comfortable playing in certain moments and not in others,” Wambach said. “And the two forwards that are going to be on the same page, and connected the most, I think are going to be the two-front that will start the most. I’d also like to see Tom toy with a three-front. We’ve talked about that a little bit. He shot me down.”
Sermanni did start the USWNT in a 4-3-3 for the second time-ever on Sunday, just hours before his firing was announced, where Wambach was a sub, coming on in the 57th minute.
The No. 1-ranked USWNT will have to get through World Cup qualification in October in Mexico before the World Cup, which will be played next summer in Canada.
Gulati will address the media to discuss the decision Monday afternoon.
What do you think of this news? How did you think Sermanni performed as USWNT head coach? Do you think the USWNT has enough time to get its house in order before World Cup qualifiers?
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