Tom Sermanni is, on paper, the most impressive candidate the U.S. women’s soccer team has ever had as head coach.
The U.S. women have never had an experienced international coach on the bench. After Anson Dorrance stepped down, the USA has had a steady succession of assistant coaches moving up — Tony DiCicco, April Heinrichs and Greg Ryan. That line of succession ended with Pia Sundhage, a head coach at youth national level in Sweden and a club coach with the Boston Breakers (WUSA version) and KIF Orebro in Sweden. (And, like Sundhage, Sermanni was a WUSA head coach.)
Sermanni was Australia’s head coach from 1994 to 1997, then again for the past eight years. That includes two World Cup quarterfinal appearances with a perpetually young team. As Julie Foudy put it:
Foudy also has tweeted plenty of compliments about Sermanni — “GRT coach and GRT human being” — and she elaborated by email: “I have known him for many years and think he is a great coach. And that he is a player’s manager type of coach. But is a strong personality who can also “crack the whip” (quote from many of current players) as many of the current players want.”
ESPN’s Adrian Healey had an interesting thought on how Sermanni might be able to deal with the large personalities on the U.S. squad:
Most other folks in the women’s soccer community seem happy with the hire. Then there’s Philip Hersh, veteran Olympic sports journalist for the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. His take:
That led to a few arguments with people in the WoSo community, such as our good friend-in-blogging Jenna Pel. But he stuck to it.
Hersh echoes Christine Brennan’s recent thoughts on the matter, though Brennan took more of a long-term view:
In a nation of 314 million people, with millions of girls and women playing or having played soccer, if not one of them is deemed good enough to lead the U.S. women’s national team in 2012, isn’t that a terrible indictment of the feeder system for girls and women in leadership positions in the game?
That’s a legitimate long-term question. That said, U.S. Soccer has now placed women — April Heinrichs and Jill Ellis — in charge of that very feeder system. Heinrichs, Ellis and Carin Gabarra are in charge of a sprawling effort to develop women’s soccer from the youth level up, with full-time youth national coaches on the way. They’re setting the tone for U.S. women’s soccer for years or decades to come.
Sermanni should fit well with both the long-term and short-term vision. He surely gets the long-term goal of developing players with breathtaking skill with ball at their feet. But, like Pia Sundhage, he surely understands that a team with the world’s best target forward (Abby Wambach) should make sure she gets a few chances to get her head on the ball in the box. (Hey, crossing like Megan Rapinoe is a skill, too.)
As for the importance of having a woman on the sideline in 2013 and beyond, I’d have to defer to those whose words and deeds carry a bit more weight. There’s Foudy, who isn’t exactly a Title IX opponent. Then there’s Mia Hamm and Danielle Slaton, half of the coaching search committee.
The concerns about developing women’s coaching talent in the long term are legit. But for now, there’s one symbol far more important — the USA’s first World Cup trophy since 1999. (No pressure or anything …)