By CAITLIN MURRAY
The search is over — and the U.S. Soccer Federation didn’t need to look far.
U.S. Soccer has selected Jill Ellis as the new head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team, a source with knowledge of the hiring process confirmed to SBI on Thursday evening. (Update: U.S. Soccer formally announced Friday afternoon that Ellis is the new USWNT head coach.)
Ellis was chosen over the only other two candidates interviewed for the job, the source said: former USWNT head coach Tony DiCicco, who led the team to a World Cup title in 1999, and Tony Gustavsson, who served as assistant coach under Pia Sundhage when the team won Olympic gold in 2012.
A source told SBI the choice had been made early this week after interviews earlier this month.
Ellis, U.S. Soccer’s development director, had been filling in as interim coach since Tom Sermanni was fired in April in an unexpected move. Ellis led the USWNT twice since then in a 3-0 win over China and a 1-1 tie in Canada last week.
The choice of Ellis shows U.S. Soccer was looking for someone familiar with the players after Sermanni, an outsider who came from Australia’s national team, was deemed a bad “cultural fit.” Ellis has worked for U.S. Soccer in various roles over the past 14 years, including as a scout for the USWNT during the 2000 Olympics and as head coach of the U-21 and U-20 USWNTs two separate times each from 2000 to 2009.
But the abrupt timing of Sermanni’s surprising dismissal means Ellis will have her work cut out for her — the USWNT faces World Cup qualifiers in five months before the big tournament, just little more than a year away.
Ellis served as interim USWNT head coach once before in 2012 between Sundhage leaving for Sweden and Sermanni being hired, amassing a 5-0-2 record then.
Sermanni had started as head coach in January 2013 with a contract through 2016 and posted an overall record of 18-2-4. But shortly before his dismissal, he led the squad to a 1-2-1 seventh-place finish at the Algarve Cup, a tournament considered a benchmark due to the strong competition featured. It was their worst-ever showing at the annual tournament and ended a 43-game unbeaten streak.
What do you think of Ellis being named head coach? Think she’s the right person for the job? Disappointed to see DiCicco and Gustavsson not at the helm? What does this hiring tell us about what U.S. Soccer is looking for?
Share your thoughts below.