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The case for Tom Sermanni
by Paul Kennedy, October 30th, 2012 6:23PM

TAGS:  australia, scotland, women's national team


[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 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)

  1. Paul Bryant
    commented on: October 31, 2012 at 11:34 a.m.
    I am not familiar with this coach, but he has an impressive resume. The USWNT will be going through a transition, especially at the center midfield and back position. Who's going to cover for Buhler's mistakes when Rampone retires? How do you replace Boxx's tenacity and toughness at defensive mid? What will be O'Rielly's role now that she has lost her starting position. Does Amy Rodriguez have a role on the team with the emergence of Leroux? A lot of questions need to be answered.

  1. Futbol Genio
    commented on: October 31, 2012 at 11:46 a.m.
    Having followed the women's game for quite some time, I don't find this appointment to be right for the times or the team. Quite simply, the devil that you know is always better than the devil that you don't know. This women's team needs a lot of mental & technical work, as new, younger players are being blended in, but its talent level is certainly always competitive. We are ranked #1 in the world! The elephant in the room is DiCicco. With his level of success & experience, the only reason that he would not be the best choice is because of personality & old grudges. No one understands American wonen's soccer like DiCicco, and he was "geared" for this team. Sad that his old players and USSF pals don't respect him enough to give him his due. We would have won the next World Cup.... All of the other coaches suggested 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), needed to "ramp up" to the position, and true USSF support. Once again, sad that none could garner the support of their own country's soccer organization. Look, Australia is now and has always been behind us in women's soccer. Nothing about their game is exceptional, or exciting, and hiring their Scottish coach seems awfully odd & obtuse. If Heinrichs, Ryan & Sundhage couldn't win the World Cup & develop a technique-laden framework for WC soccer excellence, I seriously doubt that Sermanni will either. We are the #1 ranked team in the world -- in a 12-15 year drought for a WC Championship. Technique, speed of play, thoughtful defending & dangerous offensive service are concepts that are required for the team's success; nothing about Australian soccer answers these open questions. Their team may be ranked #9, but it is light years away from what American players demand and deserve of their new WC coach.

  1. Mark Torguson
    commented on: October 31, 2012 at 1:22 p.m.
    Agree with the above, I think we have the best chance of winning a World Cup is with an American coach, we have never won one with out an American leading us. I would disagree with "an impressive resume." I don't think leading Australia to a quarterfinal is very impressive, our women don't go to world cups with the aim of making the quarters. There were some good American candidates up there, why they were not chosen only Sunil knows.

  1. John Soares
    commented on: October 31, 2012 at 3:45 p.m.
    Gentlemen you are taking away my opportunity/desire to play "devils advocate". Sermanni is a good coach that has done very well with the talent available to him. BUT!? To pass on DiCicco??? His talent AND accomplishments are well documented. His teams, 1999 WC winners did not simply win. They played some of the best soccer ever seen in the USA. Has to be behind the seen "issues". How sad!

  1. Paul Bryant
    commented on: November 1, 2012 at 11:42 a.m.
    I don't disagree that DiCicco may have been a better choice, but in Sermanni's defense, you have to have talent to have an opportunity to win a WC Championship. I would be on top-of-the-world if Klinsmann got the USMNT ranked 9th in the world, relatively speaking. The era when DiCicco coached, there were basically three teams that were competitive, U.S., Germany,and Sweden. A virtual monopoly. Brazil, France, Japan, England, and Mexico were either an afterthought or didn't exist. Our players haven't gotten worse, the rest of the world has gotten better. I kinda like the fact that the USSF chose a "working" coach and not an "TV analyst." Who of us thought Pia Sundhage wourld be successful?

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