[USA WOMEN] Tom Sermanni? The 58-year-old Scotsman isn't exactly a household name in American soccer. But the new U.S.
women's national team coach's name comes up 26 times in a search of the SoccerAmerica.com web site, mostly dating back to his days of the
WUSA. Like his predecessor, Pia Sundhage, Sermanni worked in the first women's pro league, which is one of the reasons why Sunil Gulati, the U.S. Soccer president, called Sermanni "the right person at the right time to lead our women's national team" in picking him over a long list of American candidates.
Sermanni was picked over a long list of American coaches, most notably Tony DiCicco, who led the USA to the 1996 Olympic gold medal and 1999 Women's World Cup title and more recently coached WPS's Boston Breakers and led the USA to the 2008 Under-20 Women's World Cup title.
Other American coaches with strong cases included Randy Waldrum (Notre Dame and U.S. U-23s), Erica Walsh (Penn State and Sundhage assistant), former U.S. international Jim Gabarra (longtime WUSA and WPS coach), Steve Swanson (Virginia and U.S. U-20 Women's World Cup championship team) and Paul Riley (WPSL's New York Fury).
Like Sundhage, who had coached the Breakers in WUSA, Sermanni coached in WUSA, first as an assistant with the San Jose CyberRays and then as head coach at the New York Power, where coached current U.S. captain Christie Rampone and midfielder Shannon Boxx.
It is unlikely Rampone or Boxx will be around for the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada, but their relationship with Sermanni has to have been a consideration in his selection as the women's national team's veteran leadership has always had an important voice in the team's affairs.
Abby Wambach, another veteran player whose career dates back to WUSA, expressed her support for Sermanni, tweeting that she was “really pumped about" his hiring.
Everyone was not entirely positive about the decision.
“I’m disappointed that [Gulati] thinks so little of American coaches.” DiCicco told ESPN FC. “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.”
But the main factor that separated Sermanni from all the candidates except DiCicco and Walsh is his experience at the international level.
After a playing career that look him to clubs in Scotland, England, Australia and New Zealand, he settled in Australia, which he led to the quarterfinals at both the 2007 and 2011 Women's World Cups. Sermanni, who will be the Matildas' coach through the end of the year, also led Australia to second place at the 2006 AFC Women's Cup and the 2010 championship. It is Sermanni's second stint with Australia, as he also coached the Matildas from 1994 through 1997, during which time he led the team to the 1995 Women's World Cup in Sweden.
Sermanni's work in building up the Matildas' program and knowledge of international soccer, in particular the Asian competition, is an important consideration and a reflection of U.S. Soccer's recognition of the maturity of the women's game and the need for a coach with extensive international experience.
Indeed, Sermanni is (along with Sundhage and Swanson) on the shortlist selected by FIFA and France Football for the 2012 FIFA Women's Soccer Coach of the Year.
"He has the knowledge, experience and vision to take on the challenge of keeping our team at the top of the world," said Gulati in a statement. "He has a tremendous passion for the game, knows the American players, understands our system and knows the process of preparing a team for a World Cup tournament. We're tremendously excited to have him on board as we look forward to qualification for the 2015 Women's World Cup."
Gulati headed a search committee that included U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn, former U.S. Women's National Team players Mia Hamm and Danielle Slaton, and managing Director of Administration Tom King.
Women's national team coaches
Mike Ryan (1985)
Anson Dorrance (1986-1994)
Tony DiCicco (1994-1999)
April Heinrichs (2000-2004)
Greg Ryan (2005-2007)
Pia Sundhage (2008-2012)