Baltimore, Md. – Tom Sermanni was all smiles as he posed for the obligatory “scarf pictures” with Sam Whiteman, the Orlando Pride’s first ever college draft choice Friday morning in Baltimore.
The diminutive Scot joked that he enjoyed standing beside a player who is shorter than he is and his new defender gamely played along suggesting her new coach try on her heels.
It was a light-hearted moment for the ex – U.S. WNT coach and it was easy to discern that Sermanni’s smile was not for show. No, Orlando’s new leader was clearly happy to be back in the thick of things as he prepares the Pride for its inaugural season in the National Women’s Soccer League.
As the photo shoot continued without him GotSoccer was able to steal a few minutes with Sermanni, who kept active working as an assistant coach on Canada’s WNT after being dismissed in April 2014 by U.S. Soccer.
Sermanni, who is credited with building Australia’s women’s soccer team from the ground up, hasn’t played second banana in some time, and he sounded excited to be at the helm of this challenge with the Pride.
“It’s good,” the coach said of starting from scratch. “There is always a sense of extra energy when you bring a new group together and that helps.”
Sermanni noted, “it gives you a chance to embed your philosophy and how you want the team to play, how you want them to be on the field, off the field, just to try and build up a culture within the team.”
“That,” Sermanni summed up, “is the real positive stuff about coming in at the beginning.”
It is a big job but Sermanni believes it is one made easier by the Pride’s owners, Major League Soccer’s Orlando Lions SC.
“Huge, huge, huge,” Sermanni answered when asked how important this set up is to the Pride’s success. “We’ve got great people right in place,” Sermanni explained, “it makes the job so much easier.”
He continued, “the staff is in place, they treat the women’s team exactly the same way as the men’s and those people behind you make such a big difference.” Sermanni agreed with MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who has called for more of the league’s clubs to take ownership positions with NWSL teams.
“Yes 100%,” Sermanni answered when GotSoccer asked about Garber’s remarks. Sermanni reminded, “when the league started and I was the national team coach and that was one of the things that I brought up at the time, the affiliation with the MLS team is beneficial for everyone.”
Although he was in Baltimore to talk Orlando Pride, the question had to be asked, was it hard to watch his former team, led by his former assistant, Jill Ellis raise the World Cup Trophy in Canada last summer?
“That wasn’t difficult,” Sermanni answered immediately, adding, “it’s like anywhere, it’s a difficult time when you lose a job.”
“But,” Sermanni explained, “those were the players that I worked with, the staff that I worked with, so on that level I was delighted to see them be successful because they weren’t the people that sacked me,” Sermanni concluded with a hearty laugh.
But that chapter is behind him now and for Sermanni it is, “good to be back in the game, it’s good to be at the club I’m at, and it is good to be back involved in club soccer again.”
With two stints in charge of Australia’s Matildas leading to his time with the U.S. WNT, Sermanni last took charge of a club team back in 2003 when he led the New York Power of the WUSA as well as Malaysian club Sarawak.
So Sermanni can’t be quite sure what to expect from his brand new team in 2016. “I don’t know,” the youthful 61-year-old answered when we asked for his year one prediction.
“I mean obviously, we want to do our best and get into the top four but I really don’t know because you have a whole new group of players.”
Sermanni likes his group but says, “at the same time you’re not sure how it’s all going to play out. Initially, it might go great and obviously,” the coach points out, “there are going to be some rough spots.”
Sermanni knows that it is an Olympic year, and the Pride will likely lose star acquisition Alex Morgan to Rio, just one of many factors in coaching at the club level.
Friday morning with the draft floor calling Sermanni had to run, leaving us with this, “we’re not just going in to make up the numbers,” and “thank you, it’s good to be back.”