On Women’s Soccer: Sermanni diving deep into USWNT player pool

USWNT Tom Sermanni directing Leroux ISI

By CAITLIN MURRAY

With nearly every camp the U.S. Women’s National Team has had since coach Tom Sermanni took over, a new player has been called up to train with the senior squad – and next week will be no different.

As qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup loom seven months away, Sermanni is thinking even more long term, which means we shouldn’t expect to stop seeing new faces with the USWNT.

“The World Cup is still over a year away,” Sermanni told SBI on Wednesday. “And there’s always value in looking at players who may potentially come into consideration for the squad.”

The USWNT will face China in a pair of friendlies April 6 and April 10 in their first matches since placing seventh at last month’s Algarve Cup, the USWNT’s worst finish in the annual tournament.

Sermanni has been on a roll, handing out first caps to 12 players in the 16 months he’s been on the job – but, he says, it’s been a necessity at times. With injuries, pregnancies and European club duty, the pool of players has varied in size. That’s not to say Sermanni wouldn’t have called up young players eventually, but the timing has just been ripe.

“Because of these things, it’s much more valuable to have players in the squad now so that we can assess them rather than having to assess a player two or three months out from the World Cup,” Sermanni said. “Then, she’s under tremendous pressure coming into the squad for the first time with the World Cup so close at hand.”

Of course, part of bringing in new players means changing lineups – and there has been plenty of that under Sermanni. In seven matches this year, Sermanni has fielded seven different starting 11s. Last year saw the same kind of shuffling, including 14 different back lines in 16 matches.

That wasn’t a exactly a controversial talking point, perhaps, until the USWNT lost for the first time ending a 43-game unbeaten stretch last month – followed by another loss where the team set a record for most goals the USWNT ever conceded in a single match.

“We haven’t really been really been playing the way we normally play,” Abby Wambach told Sports Illustrated this week. “I think there’s been a lot of factors. I know Tom likes to switch up the lineup quite a bit, which is very different than what we’ve been used to. So, learning how to play with new players game after game, after game, it’s harder to get a rhythm.”

“That’s why our team has always been so successful – because I always know exactly what Alex Morgan is going to do.”

Wambach will have to keep waiting for Morgan though. She’s been injured since the fall with a stress fracture and there’s no clear recovery in sight.

That leaves a spot for forward Katie Stengel, who will be at a training camp starting Monday in Denver until the USWNT’s April 6 friendly against China. She’s a U-23 forward whose goals helped the squad win the Six Nations Tournament earlier this month – a performance that earned her a call-up into the USWNT camp, Sermanni said.

But Stengel has opted to forgo the National Women’s Soccer League, where almost all USWNT players will report this spring, to play for the semi-pro Los Angeles Blues SC. Her senior year at Wake Forest had been cut short due to a treatable medical condition, meaning next week’s camp may be her best time to catch Sermanni’s eye.

“Due to her injury setbacks, I haven’t had the chance to really see her,” Sermanni said. “But this event was a good time to bring her in and see how she performs among the full national team players. Her call-up I think shows the value of the system of increased integration between the youth national teams and the full team.”

Another young name on the roster is goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who after two call-ups remains uncapped with the USWNT. But as young players join training camps, they are replacing veterans, like goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, who under previous coach Pia Sundhage had been the clear second-choice to Hope Solo.

Barnhart “is still a very important part of our program,” Sermanni said, adding that he wants to ensure she stays healthy after “battling with a few injuries issues.” But with Solo, Barnhart, Jill Loyden and Ashlyn Harris all dealing with injuries last year, it’s clear the USWNT needs to develop more goalkeepers, he said.

“We’ve had a consistent three-to-four goalkeepers over the past many years,” Sermanni said. “Like outfield players, we’ve got to start looking at opportunities for other goalkeepers who we feel have potential and put them in an environment where they compete with and against other national team goalkeepers and field players so they can continue to develop.”

 QUICK KICKS

  • Wambach took a shot this week at the Canadian Soccer Association’s announcement that they plan to bid on the 2026 men’s World Cup by pointing out that Canada is giving the women artificial turf for the 2015 World Cup. “Do you think the men will be playing on the same turf that we are? You know the answer to that,” she said.
  • Sermanni named a new assistant coach, Omid Namazi, who is coming off a stint as an assistant coach with Iran Men’s National Team. Prior to that, he had been a head coach in both the U.S. professional women’s leagues that preceded the NWSL.
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12 Responses to On Women’s Soccer: Sermanni diving deep into USWNT player pool

  1. wosofan says:

    I like that Sermanni is focusing on developing younger players but I just wonder how he can really balance that with the senior team’s goals. I’d like to see some consistency but still too early to freak out I guess. Getting close……

    • IDK says:

      i liked the piece about the goalkeepers but i would like to know more about it and the selection process because i’m starting to think that you don’t need playing time with your club to make the National Team. If he’s going to develop new goalkeepers then he should think of someone younger and in better shape than one of those players that they insist taking to camp and handing minutes to. is tom making the decisions concerning the keepers? do they have a valid criteria to pick them or is it more of a “someone likes you better than the others” and a “as long as you have legs you’ll get the call up” kind of thing?

      a goalkeeper is a really important position, especially for a team in the process of transition like the US right now, that’s why i wonder: if hope solo picks an injury during the upcoming season or right before the world cup, is the team ready to face the competition against real, competitive teams without her? does the team have a skillful and prepared backup ready to go in case something like that happens?

      because i don’t think so

      • orangecleats says:

        Right now the backup is Barnie. If there’s a need for someone to step up in Solo’s place (knock on wood) then she’s the one for the job without any doubt. And Barnie is a solid gk so that’s a pretty good choice, however, it’s time to think more long term and develop younger gks. Calling up Naeher is a positive thing. It sucks that Franch got injured, she should definitely be part of this conversation (but she’ll be in it when she’s back imo). Btw, you can say Loyden’s name, you’re not even the first person to criticize her being called up every time, those are valid questions about gks call ups.

        • IDK says:

          I think the team still has time to develop new goalkeepers but, in my opinion, they need to do two things with urgency: 1. start playing better and new teams and stop thinking in the money to start focusing o the sport, the team (why don’t they try to play spain or italy for example? even if they are not on germany’s level, at least they aren’t australia, korea, china and canada) and 2. start calling up players that deserve being representing our country and stop treating it like a National Team FC like they are doing until now (just because you had a good past with the team a couple years ago doesn’t mean you deserve being on the rosters and if you don’t get minutes to play with your club team, then you shouldn’t be there either)

          something needs to change and it has to happen soon, i think tom’s experiments are positive BUT they are letting us see the real weaknesses of the team, even if that isn’t his intention

          • orangecleats says:

            You make good points. It’s true that when they play games that they win 7-0 etc. they can become complacent. (Although some weaknesses are still visible even in those games) Having games against other teams like Spain etc. is not entirely up to USSF (these teams might have limited budget, other obligations like wc qualifiers etc) but the USSF should at least do what they can on their part to schedule friendlies against high-ranked teams. I’m not convinced that they have that as a priority. At least they’re playing France in June (moved to No.4 in the new rankings), that should be interesting.
            As for your 2nd point, do you think there are more players that fit into that group or is that only directed at Loyden? Because I wouldn’t say that’s a general thing. There are two players I can think of who have a past with the team but are not currently showing something too special , Cox and A-Rod. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say they don’t deserve to be called up now, in the sense that they get some chances to prove what they have not that I believe they should make it to the WC roster.

            • IDK says:

              I can think of Cox, Rodriguez and even LePeilbet and Boxx once they are back; why are they coming to camp when they haven’t played in months? (Cox played for Seattle but the point remains for Rodriguez) you have to earn your spot back and right now I feel like some players are on the “yours to lose” state of mind and I’m not quite sure that is positive for the team, in my opinion.

              About the friendlies, I think the Federation should stop thinking in the quantity and start looking for quality, you can’t play Sweden, Spain, France and Brazil (to name a few) every other month or as frequently as you can play the others but then don’t play 10 games against weakest teams and play 6 but with quality opponents that actually represent a threat for the team, especially now that they are heading to the WC.

              • orangecleats says:

                I see things a bit differently. All the players you mentioned have been either injured or pregnant so, in principle, I think it’s fine for them to be called up when they’re back – to be evaluated. (whether they should continue being called up and for how long is up for debate). Also, remember that KO and Alex have been injured so that has left some more space on the roster for Cox and ARod. This “yours to lose” mentality you mention may be a problem if it happens in any team but I just don’t think it applies to these specific players we’re talking about.I agree with you about the friendlies.

            • IDK says:

              Call them for evaluation, yes. But they shouldn’t be playing tournaments or international level until they have proven themselves with their club team, in my opinion. If you need another forward then bring Horan or Hagen or even a younger kid just to train and get used to that level, pretty much the same with the goalkeepers or any other position, but we seem to be stuck with the same old routine or set of players doing the same old thing (good or bad, that is another thing).

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  3. cas says:

    Naeher impressed me so much last season in Boston and she only played like 9 games bc she arrived late and then the broken nose. I really hope she gets her chance.

  4. Alex H says:

    Since January 1st 2013 the US has played 26 friendlies. If TS gave 12 players their first cap that is 2.33 games per debutante. That doesn’t strike me as very impressive.

  5. kelly w says:

    Artificial turf….for the women’s world cup…..seriously wtf