Australia’s Sermanni hired as new US women’s coach

When Tom Sermanni shook hands with Pia Sundhage after her last

game as coach of the U.S. women’s soccer team, he should have asked

her for a few tips.

Sermanni was hired Tuesday to replace Sundhage, who led the

Americans to back-to-back Olympic gold medals and their first World

Cup final in 12 years. Sermanni has spent the last eight years as

Australia’s coach, taking the Matildas to the quarterfinals of the

last two Women’s World Cups.

”He has the knowledge, experience and vision to take on the

challenge of keeping our team at the top of the world,” U.S.

Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said 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.”

Sermanni, a 58-year-old originally from Glasgow, Scotland, has

spent much of the last 20 years in Australia, where he is credited

with transforming the Matildas into one of the world’s top

programs. In addition to their quarterfinal appearances at the 2007

and 2011 World Cups, the young Australians won the 2010 Asian

Women’s Cup. Their runner-up finish at the same tournament in 2006

earned Sermanni Asian Football Confederation coach of the year

honors.

The Australians are ninth in the world, matching their highest

ranking.

Sermanni also coached Australia from 1994-97, leading the

Matildas to their first appearance in a World Cup, the 1995

tournament in Sweden. He was among 10 candidates for FIFA’s 2011

Women’s Coach of the Year.

”Tom’s legacy for Women’s Football in Australia will be felt

for many years to come as he has helped transform our women’s

national team to a very professional and competitive group of

players,” Ben Buckley, CEO of Football Federation Australia, said

in a statement. ”Tom will always be considered a close friend of

Australian football no matter where he is in the world.”

Sermanni was selected after a five-person search committee,

which included Mia Hamm, considered more than 30 candidates. The

current U.S. players said they didn’t care whether the new coach

was male or female, American or foreign-born, so long as the right

coach was selected.

The coaches of both U.S. national teams are foreign-born, with

German-born Jurgen Klinsmann, a longtime California resident,

coaching the men.

”Someone who’s good enough, that’s all I care about,” Abby

Wambach said earlier this month. ”Be the person who brings the

World Cup back.”

Sundhage was 91-6-10 in her five years with the Americans,

including a 23-1-1 record this year, and the U.S. was ranked No. 1

in the world for most of her tenure. She resigned Sept. 1 to return

to her native Sweden, where she is now the women’s national team

coach.

”We need a strong person to come in and add to the history that

this team, specifically, has created in the last two years,”

Wambach said. ”… This team is scary good, and we need to have

someone who can put all the Xs and Os together.”

After Sermanni’s hiring was announced, Megan Rapinoe, Alex

Morgan and Wambach welcomed him via Twitter.

”really pumped about (at)TomSermanni being the new uswnt head

coach!!! Welcome. (hashtag)movingforward,” Wambach said.

Sermanni has experience coaching young players, which will be

key as the U.S. begins integrating its next generation. Though

veterans like Wambach, captain Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx

have all talked of playing through the 2015 World Cup in Canada,

the next major tournament, there is plenty of depth and talent at

the lower levels, too. The U-20 team just won the World Cup, and

the U-23 team won both tournaments it played this year.

Sundhage had also begun changing the Americans’ style of play.

As the game evolves and improves around the world, relying on the

advantages it has in size, speed and power is no longer enough for

the U.S. Sundhage introduced a Barcelona-style attack that relied

on creativity and ball possession, and Sermanni will have to decide

whether to continue that or not.

”U.S. Soccer has always been at the forefront of supporting the

women’s game, and it’s exciting to coach the team in this next

chapter of its history,” Sermanni said. ”After coaching against

many of these players for years, I am looking forward to working

with an accomplished group of veterans while integrating the

numerous talented young players who are itching for a chance to

prove themselves.

”I’m honored to have this opportunity to work with tremendous

players and in a program that has had such a tradition of

success,” he added.

Sermanni does not take over officially until Jan. 1, and will

coach Australia in the East Asian Cup Qualification tournament from

Nov. 20-24 in Shenzen, China. Interim coach Jill Ellis will lead

the Americans in exhibitions against Ireland on Nov. 28 in

Portland, Ore., and on Dec. 1 in Glendale, Ariz., as well as three

games that have yet to be announced.

A midfielder, Sermanni played professionally from 1971-89 at

clubs in Scotland, England, Australia and New Zealand, including

Blackpool and Torquay, and scored more than 50 goals. He got into

coaching soon after, and has had stints as both a men’s and women’s

coach in Japan, the U.S. and Malaysia, in addition to

Australia.