USWNT: And the New Coach Is… Tom Sermanni

On Tuesday, October 30th, U.S. Soccer announced that current Australia Women’s National Team head coach Tom Sermanni would take over as the head coach of the United States WNT beginning on January 1, 2013 (USSoccer.com). Football Federation Australia issued a press release confirming that Sermanni would step down as head coach of the Matildas. This news was initially broken by The Womens Game. Terms of Sermanni’s contract, including length and salary, are not readily available. This announcement comes a full sixty days after Pia Sundhage announced on September 1st that she would step down as head coach of the USWNT. U.S. Soccer’s search committee, which was led by federation President Sunil Gulati, reviewed over thirty candidates and had interviews with at least six of them, including — besides Sermanni — Tony DiCicco, Paul Riley,  Randy Waldrum, Jim Gabarra, and Erica Walsh (twitter.com/JeffreyCarlisle).

TOM SERMANNI: AT A GLANCE — Sermanni, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, was born in 1954. He has eleven years of coaching international women’s teams, all with Australia, from 1994 to 1997 and from 2004 to 2012, where he took the Matildas to three Women’s World Cups, first in 1995, when Australia was still part of the Oceania Football Confederation, and in 2007 and 2011, as part of the Asian Football Confederation.  In the last two WWCs, Australia advanced to the quarterfinals, only to be knocked out by an eventual top three team (2007, Brazil, and in 2011, Sweden). Sermanni also coached professionally in the WUSA with the San Jose CyberRays as an assistant and the New York Power as a head coach. At New York, he coached current USWNT veterans Christie (Pearce) Rampone and Shannon Boxx. Sermanni has also had stints coaching professional men’s teams in Australia and Japan, among other places. Prior to his coaching career, Sermanni had a modest professional soccer playing for over twelve years, primarily in his native Scotland, but also in England, Australia, and New Zealand.  For more on Sermanni, U.S. Soccer has already published a biography on its website.

ON THE SEARCH PROCESS — As noted in previous posts, the search committee was led by Sunil Gulati and also had USWNT alumni Mia Hamm and Danielle Slaton as members, along with U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn and U.S. Soccer Director of Administration, Tom King. At least thirty other candidates, both male and female, were considered, including at least five who were interviewed by the committee: Former USWNT head coach Tony DiCicco, Notre Dame head coach Randy Waldrum, former WPS head coaches Paul Riley and Jim Gabarra, plus Penn State head coach Erica Walsh. Walsh is an interesting case as early on it appeared that she was not interested in the job at this time, but that changed for some unconfirmed reason. According to an ESPN article by Jeff Carlisle, DiCicco was told by U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn that he (DiCicco) was the committee’s second choice.

USWNT: THE NEAR FUTURE — On Wednesday,  October 31st, a conference call with Sermanni will be held. Jill Ellis will remain as interim head coach through the remaining five Fan Tribute Tour matches, including the two against Ireland, and three which have yet to be officially confirmed by U.S. Soccer (although at least one of those three will be against China on December 12th). Sermanni still has coaching obligations with Australia, namely East Asian Cup qualifying, which will be from November 20th to the 24th.  Sermanni will not be attending the Ireland matches, but he will be in the United States to observe the final three yet-to-be-confirmed Fan Tribute matches. After Sermanni takes the reins of the USWNT, there should be a USWNT training camp sometime in January 2013. After this, there should be another training camp prior to the Algarve Cup (e.g., in late February), and then the Algarve Cup. (Note: As to whether there will be any domestic friendlies before the Algarve Cup, that is a question that I cannot readily find an answer to at the moment.)

REACTIONS TO THE SERMANNI SELECTION — Reactions from the U.S. soccer media has generally been positive, with Jeff Carlisle of ESPN calling Sermanni the “best candidate available.” Beau Dure describes Sermanni as “on paper, the most impressive candidate the U.S. women’s soccer team has ever had as head coach.” FOX Soccer’s Leander Schaerlaeckens probably has the most cautious and measured article published today, focusing on the challenges that Sermanni faces in trying to keep the USWNT competitive as other national teams get more and more competent. Negative reactions mostly came from those unhappy that the candidate chosen was mail, such as by Chicago Tribune sports writer Philip Hersh, who, in a tweet, called this “a backward step” (see Dure’s post) and USA Today sports writer Christine Brennan, who tweeted “What happened today should never happen again for USWNT.” Last week, Brennan published a column where she essentially called for the next head coach to be a woman while denying that was what she was doing. In Carlisle’s ESPN article, former USWNT head coach Tony DiCicco, who was a candidate for the job, criticized Gulati for picking a non-American coach, saying “I’m disappointed that [Gulati] thinks so little of American coaches.” DiCicco then added “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.” A few of the current USWNT players have tweeted messages about Sermanni, mostly of the congratulations and welcome variety.  Abby Wambach had one of the more upbeat responses, tweeting “really pumped about @TomSermanni being the new uswnt head coach!!! Welcome. #movingforward.”

OTHER OUTSTANDING ISSUES — With a new coach officially hired, U.S. Soccer and the USWNT players can concentrate on two separate yet inter-related issues: A possible new professional league and the USWNT player’s next collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer. News about a new professional league could come as early as Wednesday, during a conference call with Tom Sermanni and presumably Sunil Gulati, as Gulati had hinted that news about a league could come out at this time, and possibly coincide with the head coach announcement. As Gulati has indicated that U.S. Soccer is now deeply interested in a women’s pro league and is willing to subsidize USWNT player salaries in that league in lieu of residency camps if there was no league, the details of this possible new league will have a significant impact on how the USWNT players’ next collective bargaining agreement is structured. If the negotiations for the bargaining agreement drag on well past January 1st, then that could impact USWNT’s first training camp, as was the case in 2000. year.