Apr 10, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
There’s far more intrigue involved in Thursday’s rematch between the United States women’s national team and China (Watch live from California at 11pm ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) than there was after the Yanks controlled possession and chances but lacked finish in a 2-0 win in Colorado on Sunday.
That’s because US Soccer unexpectedly parted ways with head coach Tom Sermanni mere hours after the win, and the explanations since have been anything but sufficient. US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said the coach’s style wasn’t meshing with the organization’s goals, and hinted that there were “personality-driven” issues.
But don’t tell that to the players, who to a woman are saying how shocked they are and how tremendous a coach and person Sermanni was during his 15 months in charge. Star Carli Lloyd was “shocked as everyone else,” while legend Abby Wambach was flat-out dismissive that there was a player revolt.
Which, of course, is why there have been rumors that players were barred from talking about the firing on social media (that only renegade Hope Solo disobeyed).
So it seems tonight is a bit of a no-win situation, aside from the obvious “W” that comes from beating China. If the US finishes the a larger percentage of the chances created against China earlier in the week, they’ll absolutely squash the competition and there will be some talk that the players threw their coach under the bus. If the US looks poor again, well, that’s an even bigger problem.
If Sermanni did anything while in charge, it was having the guts to introduce the next generation into the full national team fold ahead of World Cup 2015 in Canada. Some of those faces will be on the scene tonight, and the starting lineup from interim coach Jill Ellis — longtime US assistant going back to the Pia Sundhage era — could tell us more than a little about who’s speaking truly about the upheaval at US Soccer.
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