US Soccer president: Sermanni didn’t lose job to player revolt

Gulati says he understood Sermanni's surprise at the firing, but insisted it wasn't a hasty decision.

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Tom Sermanni, the United States women’€™s national team head coach who was unexpectedly fired late on Sunday night, did not lose his job to a player revolt, US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said on Monday, addressing media for the first time since the Scottish manager was relieved of his duties.

Rumors immediately swirled that the veteran core in the side had somehow deposed Sermanni, who told FOX Soccer late on Sunday night that he "didn’™t see it coming." His sudden dismissal had come just hours after a 2-0 friendly win over China. "€œThis isn’€™t a group of players coming to seek us out and saying, ‘€˜There’€™s something wrong and we need to do something.’€™ That’s not what was the underlying issue here," Gulati countered on a conference call. "Our dialogue with the team is ongoing and sometimes that’s at a higher decibel level than others. We’€™ve had discussions with players, with staff, with people around the team and observed ourselves."

The issue as US Soccer saw it was an incompatibility of Sermanni’s management style and the team. Sermanni is famously laid back, a sharp contrast to his successful predecessor Pia Sundhage, a big, charismatic personality. "Sunil just felt that … my management style wasn’€™t one that was effective in this environment,"€ Sermanni had told FOX Soccer.

"Tom does have a very unique style,"€ said Gulati. "The demands both of all of us for the women’s program and the women’s team itself fits very well with certain styles and not so well with other styles. It’€™s important that the collective buy into the direction and how you’€™re moving forward and we had some concerns there."

Following gold medals in consecutive summer Olympics and a Women’€™s World Cup final lost on penalties, Sundhage departed for her native Sweden and was succeeded by Sermanni, a Scot. His stated objectives were to continue the team’s winning tradition while modernizing its playing style and rejuvenating an aging side.

LEND US YOUR EARS!

But while he went undefeated in 2013, his first year in charge -€“ just the second time the team had gone a year with at least 10 games without a loss -€“ the US women struggled to break down opponents for large stretches in their early games of 2014. What followed was their worst-ever performance at the annual Algarve Cup, where they placed seventh. After going undefeated for two years, they lost two games in a row for the first time since 2001.

Gulati said that it wasn’€™t this isolated slump didn’t precipitate the questions over Sermanni’s suitability. "There’s been a longer period than just the Algarve,"€ he said. "€œThe Algarve, obviously, in terms of the actual results didn’€™t go the way we wanted and it’€™s been a long time that the US lost two games in a row or went three without winning. That may have brought some of the issues that were of concern to the forefront. But this wasn’t something where the entire process was over the last two weeks.

"€œThere is no specific event, there’s nothing like that whatsoever,"€ Gulati continued. "€œWe don’€™t walk into locker rooms and make decisions based on individual games. This has been a process for us, in assessing things, in watching the team perform, in talking to people over time."

A large group of people and issues had been consulted and considered, Gulati said. "€œWhenever we have changes with our national team program, we talk to players, we talk to staff, we talk to people that observe the team and rely on our own assessment,"€ he said. "€œIt’€™s probably three things. One of those is the subject of evaluation of where the team is going. Two is talking with people in and around the team. The third is the results at the Algarve weren’€™t what we’€™d hoped for. The standards of this team are very high. That doesn’€™t mean one loss or even two necessitate or push us towards a change. But it’€™s all of those factors."

Sermanni, however, didn’€™t seem to be a part of those discussions, hence his surprise, which Gulati said he could "€œcertainly understand."

No attempt appears to have been made to steer him and his management approach into a different direction. Rather, a decision was made outright that he wasn’€™t the right fit and couldn’€™t be recalibrated.

The US women play a second friendly with China on Thursday and have a friendly with Canada scheduled for May 8. Gulati said he hopes to have Sermanni’€™s successor installed by the summer. "€œOver the next days and perhaps weeks, we will decide on who is going to take the national team on on a longer-term basis, a permanent basis,"€ he said.