Hours after coaching the US Women’s National Team to a 2-0 victory over China Sunday in Commerce City, Col., Tom Sermanni was relieved of his duties as the team’s head coach.
“I was taken completely by surprise,” Sermanni told Kevin Flynn and Grayle Howlett on SiriusXM FC’s Over the Ball Tuesday in his first on-air interview since he was fired.
It was the first time in 25 years of coaching Sermanni hadn’t finished out a contract.
“Sunil [Gulati, US Soccer Federation President] and Dan Flynn [USSF CEO and Secretary General] came to the game and then came back to the hotel and came up for a meeting,” Sermanni explained. “I thought it was about some issues, perhaps the National Women’s Soccer League or some explanation on the poor Algarve Cup results [in which the USA suffered back-to-back losses for the first time since 2001], and was basically given the information that they were going in another direction and felt that things weren’t working out.”
For the time being, Jill Ellis, the Director of Youth Development, will take over for Sermanni.
“In hindsight, I probably should’ve brought someone in that had worked with me before, as most coaches do,” Sermanni said. “Most of the technical staff were overseas people. I’m a firm believer that a national team should have their own people from their own country in the program. It was a mistake by me.”
That, along with the end of the USWNT’s historic unbeaten 43-game streak — to Sweden and Sermanni’s predecessor, Pia Sundhage, no less — were concerns for anyone following the team.
In the 48 hours since he was fired, Sermanni has gone from surprised to disappointed, and now frustrated.
“Players are coming back from injury, the team is really getting together and things staff-wise are settled. We’re now in a really good place to move forward,” Sermanni said.
So why now?
“I can understand if people want a different style of management to take over, but I think it was fairly well known, both from myself and generally around the women’s soccer community, what my style was,” Sermanni said. “And that hasn’t changed.”
You can make the case that “style” was working, too. Look no further than one of the team’s biggest stars today, Sydney Leroux.
“Before I came in here, Syd Leroux hadn’t started an international game,” Sermanni said. “But you look at her now and she’s arguably the [most in-form] striker, perhaps in the whole world.”
Beyond giving Leroux and other less experienced players a shot, Sermanni’s impact on the team on a personal level was undeniable.
“Nineteen of the 23 players, unsolicited, chatted with me and thanked me,” Sermanni said of the aftermath of his firing. “That in itself is an indication that there was harmony in the squad. The players had bought into what we were trying to do with the team.”
Now it’s up to Ellis and whomever becomes the full-time replacement for Sermanni to keep the team on track for success in 2015.
Stay tuned to SiriusXM FC for the build up to both the Men’s and Women’s World Cups.