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Sermanni ‘completely blindsided’ by firing from US women’s national team helm

Apr 7, 2014, 2:33 AM EDT

Tom Sermanni talks to Jill Ellis, who will serve as interim USWNT coach. Could she take over permanently? (Getty Images) Getty Images

Tom Sermanni says he was “completely blindsided” by his firing from the head coaching position of the U.S. women’s national team on Sunday, 15 months after getting the job.

Sermanni, who was dismissed Sunday night after the United States’ 2-0 win over China in Commerce City, Colo., told Sports Illustrated that he did not get any sense of the team being uneasy with him as coach. Sermanni was under contract until the end of 2016.

SI’s Grant Wahl reports that Sunday was the first time Sermanni had spoken to U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati since the Algarve Cup last month, and the Scotsman now realizes the the U.S. is “a unique team that has certain demands.”

The questions remain, though. Why now? And why at all? Despite struggles at the Algarve Cup, Sermanni has not only won, but done so with a full rotation of young and veteran talent. He amassed an 18-2-4 record as coach, and despite recent Algarve Cup struggles that brought an end to a 43-game unbeaten streak, the direction of the U.S. women has been positive — and youthful.

But it appears that some U.S. players, according to Wahl, expressed concern regarding the direction of the team ahead of World Cup qualifying in October.

“I would assume obviously there has to be some degree of dissatisfaction among the players, otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten to this point so quickly now,” Sermanni told SI.

Sermanni said similar things to Fox Sports‘ Leander Schaerlaeckens regarding potential — however unforeseen — player discontent within the team.

“Perhaps because I’ve maybe changed things a little bit or changed some of the concepts around the team, I don’t know if players have been uncomfortable with that,” Sermanni told Fox Sports.

The Washington Post’s Steve Goff reports that an players felt like they weren’t learning and advancing, citing an anonymous source.

“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,” Gulati said in a statement. “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.”

Gulati will address media on Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET, which could provide at least some clarity on why Sermanni was fired and who filled the position.

In the meantime, Jill Ellis will once again serve as interim head coach, as she did in fall 2012 when Pia Sundhage left to take the Sweden job. The U.S. and China play again on Thursday at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online on Live Extra.

  1. talgrath - Apr 7, 2014 at 4:19 AM

    I know the USWNT leads a bit of a charmed life in the world of soccer competition, but doing “poorly” (losing twice to take 4th) in a tournament isn’t a good reason to fire a coach. Single elimination tournaments can go poorly sometimes, not due to any particular general flaw in coaching or player ability. Axing Sermanni like this is going to make the coaching search a lot more difficult and costly, after all two losses could mean you lose the job.

  2. mdac1012 - Apr 7, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    Its ridiculous that they fired him but finding a new coach shouldn’t be a problem. The US puts more resources into their womens program than any other country in the world and they are going to be one of the top 2-3 favorites to win the WC in 2015. Its clear though whichever manager comes in needs to get the top players on the team on board with the new message early. From the outside this firing looks like a player driven decision.

  3. boscoesworld - Apr 7, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    DIVAS!!!! The players could do whatever they wanted under Pia. No real form or style. Just launch long balls from the back and hope your superior athletes can run them down. I hate to tell you ladies. The rest of the world is catching up both physically and most surely tactically. Sermanne had them playing a much more structured system and I actually liked watching it more than the haphazzard system that lost them the last World Cup. Yes to a team that was more structured. Played ball control and moved right around our athletes. Tom’s system was sound. I am not sure how sound the thinking of our older players is anymore.

  4. mogogo1 - Apr 7, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Sets a bad precedent. If the new coach fails to better 18-2-4 but the players like him/her better does that mean their job is safe? Or do you have to fire them because they didn’t live up to expectations?

  5. mdac1012 - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    It’s not like it’s the first time players have forced a manager out, especially in international football. A national team is a different animal than a club team, if you have players that don’t want to play for the guy it’s not like you can move them and get new players. If enough of the top players on the team don’t have confidence in the guy, you have no choice but to make a move. Or you can force the situation and most likely your going to have a mess on your hands. The fact that he said he had no idea there were any issues at all has to raise a red flag that he didn’t have a feel for his team.

    • bostonredsoccer - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:32 PM

      I would say that the USWNT is a different animal than most NTs as well. The players have a collective bargaining agreement and they are expected to spend a large chunk of their time in NT activities. There isn’t as much turnover, either, which can be good and bad.

  6. godsholytrousers - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    I didn’t like the choice to begin with, but what a lousy way to treat a professional coach.

    Who would want to come in to this mess, and try and keep this rabble “happy”?

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