“Positive possession,” was the phrase that Tom Sermanni used to to describe the style of play that he intends to bring to the United States Women’s Soccer team. Speaking on a conference call to members of the U.S. soccer press this afternoon, the long time coach of the Australian women’s side said that he would emphasize technique to keep the Americans up with the evolving women’s game.
Sermanni made sure to praise the Olympic champions saying that, “the key thing is, that this U.S. team is a very good side.” Still Sermanni agreed with his predecessor, Pia Sundhage, that the U.S. needs to move toward more of a possession based style of play.
Sermanni’s first official business as coach of the USWNT was delayed by technical difficulties, possibly arising from the devastation from Hurricane Sandy. Once the conference got underway, the 58 year old Scot came across as easy going and eager to please on his introduction from Sunil Gulati. Answering all queries pleasantly, the new coach encouraged reporters to ask follow ups questions, if they didn’t get what they wanted.
Sermanni officially takes the reigns of the standard bearers in the women’s game on January 1, 2013, and won’t have a major tournament until the 2015 Women’s World Cup. The American team will continue to be coached by Jill Ellis for the remainder of the Fan Tribute Tour, while Sermanni completes his obligations to the Australian national team, which he led to three consecutive Women’s World Cups.
In two different stints over 11 years, Sermanni, gained a reputation as a players coach, and was particularly well regarded for his tutelage of younger players. His obligations with the Matildas will keep Sermanni away from the upcoming U.S. games against Ireland, in Portland and Phoenix, on November 28 and December 1. The boss will be observing his new charges when the U.S. takes on China later in December.
Although Sermanni cautioned that 2015 will, “come around in the blink of an eye,” the time between competitive matches does create some challenges for the new man. One potentially unpleasant task Sermanni may face, could be dealing with some established veterans, as they age out of the team. In 2003, as head coach of the New York Power of the WUSA, Sermanni coached U.S. national team captain Christie Rampone and fellow U.S. star Shannon Boxx.
Sermanni said that, “I don’t want to judge players on chronological age,” but conceded, “I have to do the job I was hired to do.” Sermanni also said that, “I have a good relationship with Christie and Shannon,” adding with a slight chuckle, “at least I had.” Don’t look for these two stalwarts to be shown the door prematurley however. Sermanni called the veteran duo, “probably two of the more dominant players on the team,” and also noted that, “I don’t want to make radical changes.”
In closing the conference call, Sunil Gulati stated that he would have news on a much talked about new women’s league in a week or two. News that Sermanni would surely welcome, having called the Australian W League, “ enormously important,” to the growth of the women’s game in Australia.
Sermanni also seemed open, even anxious, to take on a larger role with the U.S. youth sides than his predecessor, although Sermanni stressed that he was not yet well versed on the U.S. set up. The coach did say that he would hope to be in, “close contact,” with the youth coaches, although he would encourage each coach to have their independence.
Sermanni believes that, “technical development is the key,” emphasizing that, “technical development has to take priority over physical development.” He relates, that while many coaches encourage players and teams to train harder, Sermanni would like to see them, “practice better.”
Sermanni struggled at times to say soccer, instead of football, just one adjustment the new man will have to make, as he assumes the highest profile job in the world of women’s soccer. Amid all the talk of changing the United States team, Sermanni wanted to make it clear that he knows he is taking over a talented side.
There is, Sermanni said, a misconception regarding the Americans. “Teams get pigeonholed,” he said, speaking of the label attached to the U.S. team as just a physically gifted group. “This team is a good footballing team,” stressed their new coach. “The foundation is already there,” he said. “It’s not like trying to start from scratch.”