By CAITLIN MURRAY
Reactions are trickling in from U.S. Women’s National Team players after head coach Tom Sermanni was fired in a shocking move over the weekend – and they cover quite a range.
Abby Wambach reiterated comments from U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati a day earlier, when he said Sermanni’s dismissal was “not a collective group of players” pushing for his ouster.
“Everybody out there who may think the players made this happen, none of it’s true,” Wambach told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
Wambach, however, seemed to imply that the federation felt Sermanni was moving the USWNT away from an “attack-oriented” mindset.
“Every coach that comes on has their own philosophy and stamp that they want to put on the game. For us, we’re very American, attack-oriented, score goals until the 95th minute,” she said. “That’s how we are. I think that maybe the direction of the team wasn’t going in the direction the federation had hoped, not only the Algarve result, but I think just in general.”
Sermanni had been fired Sunday night with Gulati laying partial blame on the USWNT’s worst-ever seventh-place finish at last month’s Algarve Cup in Portugal.
Megan Rapinoe said Sermanni’s tendency to shuffle lineups might’ve alienated some people, but was also responsible for the emergence of new soccer powerhouses, like Sydney Leroux.
“I felt like performances in a lot of ways were going in the direction we (wanted to be) going. What he was trying to do was always going to take a little bit of time,” Rapinoe told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Tuesday as the USWNT prepares to face China on Thursday. “I think you can argue it both ways. One of the criticisms of the last coach, Pia (Sundhage), was that she never changed the lineup.”
“I think there’s been a lot of different people, and that has been disruptive to lineups,” Rapinoe added, “but you’ve also seen the emergence of Morgan Brian, Sydney Leroux, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg and Christen Press.”
Hope Solo seemed to put some of the responsibility of Sermanni’s firing on the team, saying the team underperformed and Sermanni paid the price.
“We didn’t play our best soccer in Portugal and we came in seventh place and that’s not good enough for this team,” Solo said. “At the end of the day, we failed Tom. We didn’t put together a good tournament. That’s how professional sports are. They’re not going to cut 24 players. They’re going to get a new coach. That’s how it goes.”
Sermanni, meanwhile, still seemed to be processing what happened. Hours after the firing, he told SBI he was surprised and unsure why he was fired – but by Tuesday he had gone from surprise, to disappointment, to frustration, he told Sirius XM radio.
In hindsight, Sermanni said he should’ve brought in his own coaching staff, but noted he did leave successes behind, including the emergence of Leroux as perhaps the top forward in the world.
“Nineteen of the 23 or 24 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 actually trying to do with the team.”
Wambach added that Sermanni addressed the players after he was fired and wished them the best, which she called “some of the best people experience I’ve ever seen.”
“I wish he was a jerk in some ways because it would be easier,” Wambach said. “But that’s just not the case. He’s such a good guy. He treated us all with the utmost respect and we couldn’t wish him nothing but the best of luck.”