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On Women’s Soccer: Who will replace Sermanni as USWNT coach?

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Now that the dust is settling from Tom Sermanni’s shocking ouster as head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team, attention will turn to the next step: Finding his replacement.

It won’t be easy. Sermanni came to the U.S. with an impressive resume of international head coaching experience and was fired after losing just twice in 24 matches. U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati was short on specifics when explaining the dismissal this week, which may mean the problem with Sermanni was just as much how his style fit within the organization as much as his win-loss record.

With mere months until World Cup qualifying, U.S. Soccer will probably want to focus on finding the right cultural fit, even if it means selecting someone with less international experience. U.S. Soccer’s search committee will be looking to fill the position as soon as possible, but this summer is the deadline, Gulati said.

Gulati told reporters this week there is “a very short list” of candidates being considered for the job, without naming names. SBI takes a look at some potential candidates who may be top contenders:


U.S. Soccer may not have to look far. Ellis, U.S. Soccer’s development director, had served as interim coach when Pia Sundhage left for her native Sweden, tallying a 5-0-2 record – but Ellis had removed herself from consideration for the permanent job. Now Ellis will resume that role in Sermanni’s absence, which could potentially end up being a trial before a job offer. Gulati told reporters this week she hadn’t said anything about her interest in the job this time around yet, but she would be qualified for almost any job. It seems that if she wants it, she will be at the top of the list.


He was Pia Sundhage’s assistant coach when the team won the gold medal at the London Olympics, which may make Gustavsson the next best thing to having Sundhage return. U.S. Soccer was clearly disappointed with Sundhage’s decision to leave after her contract expired to coach Sweden and Gustavsson may be able to bring some of her style back. But Gustavsson now has a record of his own to lean on, having coached UEFA Champion’s League powerhouse Tyreso since August 2012. This year, the club seems poised to win the whole tournament, with a semifinal match next week. Gustavsson’s contract with the club ends after this season and he sounded interested when asked about the job by Swedish press this week. It probably can’t hurt that on Tyreso, he has coached five current USWNT pool players.


A former assistant of Pia Sundhage during the USWNT’s 2011 World Cup run, Walsh has a combination of top-level experience that makes her a contender. She has been for eight years head coach for the women’s soccer program at Penn State, where she led the team to its first national championship appearance last year. But she’s also something of a journeyman in U.S. Soccer, having worked as an assistant coach for the U-19 and head coach for the U-17 women’s teams, in addition to working under Sundhage. Walsh would be adept at working with the young talent Sermanni had brought in under his tenure, if that’s what U.S. Soccer wants.


After being passed over last year for the head coach position with the English national women’s team late in the process, Riley may get a chance at an even higher profile gig. The timing, however, is not great. Riley, who has a long resume of successfully coaching clubs in the U.S., just started as coach of the Portland Thorns in December. He is happy in Portland and under contract there, he told reporters this week – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t interested in the USWNT job. Doing both would be feasible and he would be keen to juggle club and country in the short-term: “Obviously, the U.S. job is the No. 1 job in the world,” he said. “If anybody said they wouldn’t be interested, then they’d be lying.” The biggest obstacle for Riley may not be his new job in Portland, but rather the fact that he’s never been a coach within U.S. Soccer before.


The timing isn’t any better for Waldrum. He left a 15-season career coaching the women’s team at Notre Dame in January to join the Houston Dash, a new expansion club in the National Women’s Soccer League. He’s got an impressive resume, winning two NCAA championships and serving as U-23 USWNT coach since 2012. But it’s hard to see Waldrum giving up the stability of a 15-year career in college soccer to roll the dice on a job like the one with the USWNT, where Sermanni was fired after less than 16 months without even seeing it coming. Waldrum told reporters this week he is focused on his first season with the Dash and he had not been approached by U.S. Soccer about the job, but even if he had been, there’s a chance Waldrum would pass.


Less than three weeks before Sermanni was fired, Namazi was brought in as Sermanni’s full-time assistant coach – but there’s a chance he could end up becoming Sermanni’s replacement. Namazi joined the USWNT from a stint as an assistant coach for the Iran Men’s National Team, helping the team qualify for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. But stretching back further, Namazi coached a season the WUSA league and then for the Chicago Red Stars for one season. Namazi already has a foot in the door and his resume could be the right mix of women’s soccer experience and international experience for what U.S. Soccer’s search committee wants.


He’s a big name who needs no introduction to the soccer world. DiCicco memorably led the USWNT to a 1999 World Cup win in front of a record-breaking crowd – a moment widely seen as putting women’s soccer on the map in America. But DiCicco’s legendary status was sealed in an era when women’s soccer looked much different. The game is more technical and more possession-oriented now, and the competition is tougher. There is the lingering question of whether DiCicco can adapt to that. After his USWNT career, DiCicco moved onto to club soccer, coaching the Boston Breakers to mixed results, showing that his USWNT success is not something easily repeated. Despite DiCicco’s resume – two World Cup gold medals – U.S. Soccer would be rolling the dice on someone who hasn’t coached in several years if they pick DiCicco.


What do you think of this list? Is there anyone else you see as a top contender? Who do you think U.S. Soccer will select? Who do you think they should select?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. PS Powell made the worst management decision I have EVER seen – winning 2-1 against FRANCE in the world cup quarter, with ten minutes left – she TAKES OFF her two outside backs (one was Alex Scott, IMO the finest left back in the world) and puts on two players getting their first world cup minutes EVER, using up her last two substitutions with 9 minutes left –
    Predictably, the french go straight up the right hand side (past the incredulous Alex Scott on the sideline) cross it in and BANG england are in extra time.
    Extra time with a limping Kelly Smith, who powell is unable to replace
    They lmp through to Pk’s and Powell ASKS THE PLAYERS WHO WANTS TO TAKE ONE – they all say no until the injured smith says she’ll take one, followed by both the WWC rookies and Faye White. The rookies miss, as does Faye and England crash out.
    Worst coaching I have ever seen. It actually made me wonder if Powell was part of some betting sydicate and had to throw the game!!
    And then she made similar crazy selection decisions in the quarter against canada in the olympics
    Powell – nice lady, great player, deserves her place in history for bringing england out of the dark ages. But England will advance no further without a gifted manager. Laura Harvey? She gets my vote.

  2. Powell? Are you even for real? Where you watching the olympics or the last world cup? Worst coaching decisions I have ever seen in 20 years of being a big womens soccer fan.

    It’s gotta be Ellis or Walsh. I would prefer Walsh. She’s done a great job at Penn.

    And the Wambach bashing is pretty unattractive. Yes, Abby has a say. So does Rampone. If you’re a good coach, you listen when your vets tell you stuff.

    I was in the Algarve and it was clear the vets – Rampone, Wambach, Lloyd, Rapinoe, Solo – were having none of Sermanni. His training and his warm ups were highly unorganised, very low intensity. It’s not how the USWNT roll.

    Wambach LOVES when new players play. But she wants them to play on merit, not just because it’s time to give someone a “chance.” You wanna start? Knock a veteran out. That “competetive cauldron” is what makes the USWNT great.

    A coach would be INSANE not to build the next world cup team around the experienced spine of Solo, Rampone, Lloyd and Wambach. If you were in the Algarve, you would have seen that K. Mewis, Khlingenberg, Hagen and ESPECIALLY Press are not ready for elite opposition.

    I just watched Tyresso draw against Birmingham Blues in the champions league – Blues had an unknown backline that included two very talented under 18s (Aoife Mannon ya’ll -look her up. She is GIFTED as a center back. ) and Tyreso were attacking with Press, Marta and Veronice Bouquete. Press is a ball hog, and always, always takes one or two too many touches. She needs to get her head up. She will be ready in two years time, but will always start behind Leroux and Morgan, let alone Wambach, and rightly so. They are all three leagues better than Press when playing top teams. She just isn’t quick enough with her decision making. . If Press is going to play, she probably needs to reinvent herself like HAO did. Press looks good against scotland and russia, but against japan and sweden and even denmark, she just doesn’t cut it.

    Walsh or Ellis.

    And stop bashing Wambach. She has earned the right to have one more go at the gold ring if she can get herself fit, and like LLoyd, Rampone and Solo, it’s her LAST go. Of course they deserve a say in how it goes going forward.

    Don’t forget – she is CLUTCH. And she is more than route one. She is a game changer.

  3. I think USSF will go with Gustavsson. Sounds like they’re pining for someone that would bring Pia’s approach, which would allow the vets to hang around and enable a slower transition to a more possession based game. USSF clearly wasn’t comfortable with the “moneymakers” being unceremoniously phased out only a year prior to the next WC. To bad for TS, USSF should have done a much better job of picking his brain about what changes he intended to make and how that potentially could reshape the roster prior to hiring him.

  4. I’m with the earlier commenters who are baffled by the disdain for Wambach. Have you ever listened or read her interviews? She never speaks of her own achievements and seems to care little for personal glory. She is in reality, quite humble. A heck more humble than Id be in the same situation. She has also addressed seeing less action. She’s all for it. She’s not living in a vacuum. She knows she is aging fast and if sitting the bench will extend her career long enough to be picked to represent the US at the WWC and still be of help to any team she is on…that’s her goal. Just to be on the team and another chance to win. From everything I have read she will retire the day after a win at the WWC. She is ready. She just wants a WC win very badly.

  5. How about a long shot for Anson Dorrance? Its been a long time since he has been with the Nat Team but he does have history. He also has shown recently that he just doesn’t adapt to the game but usually leads changes in tactics ahead of everyone else (at least at the college level).

  6. Namazi has the successful experience in San Diego and Chicago with women, and the international experience coming from a team that just qualified for the men’s world cup. This guy will win. His resume proves that!

  7. I am depressed by the list. For years the USA women’s teams have won with athleticism, a couple of exceptional players at key positions, and superior depth. They haven’t had to be tactically superior. In fact, they often looked like tactical neophytes compared to Japan, Germany, France… When I see the candidates largely have been associated with past regimes, I jump to the conclusion that it will be more of the same. As the gap closes, we will need to become more tactically adept and it would be nice if they found a coach who had a good track record in that area plus experience with the dynamics of managing a women’s team.,

    • You said it Flager Thurmon Munson.
      As a whole it’s a week list, because it’s a homer list.
      I was challenging our dear writer to do some research and due diligence.

      1. Powell: A strong woman with a sport psychology degree, she’ll know just how to handle the personalities, no nonsense, all business, win and fix any divas all in one.
      2. Swanson: U20 WNT, world cup winner, U23 coach, from the UVA, coaching pipeline.
      3. Namazi: Don’t know too much about him?, but it sounds workable and above pedestrian.

  8. Why doesn’t anyone try and make up with Anson? His attitude is what these women need. They are too talented and they know it. They need someone aggressive and fiery.

  9. The amount of hatred toward Wambach is literally mind boggling.

    This is the 2012 World Player of the Year. She is the women’s equivalent of Messi (or Ronaldo this year) yet American fans on this site seem to just crap all over her. She was a finalist last year and also the USSF Athlete of the Year and only soccer player to ever win the AP Female Athlete of the Year. All-time international goal scorer in history. Led the team to the Olympic Gold just 2 years ago. Her second gold–and Olympics in women’s soccer mean way, way more than they do in men’s soccer.

    • You lost all credibility with, “She is the women’s equivalent of Messi…” She is nearly 34, her body is breaking (broken?) down, and she is nowhere near the player she was even 2-3 years ago. She may not be more than a “super sub” in WC2015, and will most definitely be a fringe player for the 2016 Olympics.

      I think she learned a bit too much from the ’99ers about entitlement, as she sided with them in the whole Scurry-Solo debacle

    • A, Hey who’s hating?.
      If one is to look at any team, as if it was your child.
      How would you want it to be?.

      I can only speak for myself, but do you even have any idea what I think about Wam?.
      and how much do you think Wam, should play next WC in order for the women’s team to be successful and reach their lifetime soccer goal of actually winning?.( careful how you answer, it will give many insight into whether or not you are just a bandwagon and homer or know a little bit about soccer?).
      Off course she should be there and next Olympics also.
      Every consideration of mine is how to lengthen her highly productive and impactful career.
      I am only disappointed, ashamed, and somewhat embarrassed for them with all this nonsense. They need a good dose of Hope Powell.

    • In the end it’s going to be put up, shut up, and deliver.

      Uva dude, Swanson?, always seems to have that deer in the headlights look.
      And give us a little more than a pep rally,
      at least tell us that Swanson, coached the U20’s to a world cup victory etc..

      • In the end due diligence brings us to HOPE POWELL.
        She is the best fit, A women’s pioneer for an ever evolving game,
        she is and was an attack oriented coach/player,
        with a vast soccer knowledge and great offensive mind.
        Further attributed with good strong leadership qualities,
        grace, passion, and presence,
        complimented by an astute understanding of people and the game.

      • Yes, The Garrincha. Now has U23. He’s also turned around and made successful every team he’s coached, always striving to improve, surrounds himself with great people, well liked, technically very smart, doesn’t lose his cool, players love him. Let’s not forget he was offered this job once before and turned it down to stay in Charlottesville. Prior UVA coaches include April Heinrichs , Arena and Bradley. Also on men’s side Reyna, Williams, Alecko, etc. Besides Morhan
        Brian there are a few other great former UVA players in the national team pool. Don’t mean this to be a pro UVA thing but you asked. I’ve been going to soccer games around the country since the 70’s and he’s one of my favorite coaches ever but I admit I’m biased and no i’m not from Virginia but do get to see them a lot.

      • Thanks, good stuff there Wahoo.
        like the facts and info,
        I can get behind this a little bit more.
        Lets just say, I’ll put him down as number 2
        behind Powell.
        Powell really understands the Uefa group.
        Other than Canada, Japan and Brazil, throw in Ghana, Nigeria.
        Everybody else who is a serious threat is from Uefa.
        No homers just for homers sake, please.

  10. Hope Powell
    Hey Caitlin Murray, what do you think about Powell?
    A little Info on Hope. Degrees in sport psychology and history.
    Debuted for England at age 16, she was a tremendous attacking midfield player with, 35 goals in 66 caps.
    That kind of goal scoring ratio is up there with the best of them all time.

    In 2003 Powell became the FIRST woman to be awarded the UEFA Pro Licence,
    She had become England coach in 1998, and led the national team to the final of Euro 2009 where they lost to Germany. It was speculated that Powell would become the first female manager in English men’s football when she was linked with the vacant managerial role at Grimsby Town in October 2009, however caretaker manager Neil Woods was appointed on a permanent basis.
    Definitely should be considered on any women’s team short list.

    • I just get the sense U.S. Soccer is going to want someone who has a relationship with the federation or has worked with the USWNT players before. But maybe they’ll pull another surprise and bring in an outsider.

      • That is exactly my concern.
        This whole insider business may lose
        a lot of fan support.
        More of the same old same old.
        This is what is so refreshing about Klinsy, you see
        many of us are tired of the way the system has been run for years.
        Now it is quite apparent that the women’s side is holding on to this
        old guard mentality a little too stringently.
        In closing you seem to brush it off as quite matter of fact.

        Personally I was asking what you thought of Hope Powell’s, credentials and ability?.
        It is obvious she is well qualified with only a quick glance at her resume one can see she is serious and actually was an elite former player.
        Jill Ellis, interestingly enough who also is British and the same age as Powell, speaking soccer wise she does not appear to have anywhere near the experience and acumen.

  11. I hope it’s not Waldrum. I like what he has done with the Houston Dash so far. He may have put together a good squad despite some limitations, and absences/injuries, and like to keep him in Houston.

    • I think the timing and circumstances for this national team opening are just not right for Waldrum. He didn’t have a lot of time to pull together this first foray into professional soccer and he’s acknowledged that while he’s going to go at it hard this year, it will take a few season to get it right and tight in Houston. Plus, one stated reason for leaving ND was to get back to his native Texas.

      Plus, Randy’s no fool…unless he hears some pretty firm expectations, he’s not going to pitch everything aside, given what happened to Sermanni. Too bad, because I think AFTER WC15, this team will need someone like Waldrum, Walsh or Swanson to retool.

  12. I feel like this coaching decision is going to give a lot more clarity to the true reasons why Sermanni was fired. The media thus far have done a terrible job getting answers to that mystery. We will just have to wait to see who is selected, and then player selections and style of play will add further clarity. Wambach has thus far said, in so many words, that Sermanni was not enough of an impassioned fighter, was too docile, and was taking away the fighting, attacking spirit of the team. She would prefer a coach that allows the back line to freely bypass the midfield, by pumping balls forward. She wants a more direct style of play, with a lot less patience. I feel this really only serves the veterans on the team, who don’t have the skills or intelligence to play a different style of play, namely, Abby, Boxx, Rampone, Buehler, Rapinoe, Lloyd, O’Reilly, and Leroux. Goals like the give-and-go between Press and Sauerbrunn in the most recent Canada match will be but a fond memory, as these veteran players are incapable of such plays.

    • Hey Guest1
      You are a little remiss.
      Rapinoe, Lloyd, and Leroux most certainly have the skill and ability to do this.

    • I hear Sir Alex doesn’t have a team right now!

      Although I’m sure he’d never do coach the USWNT, it would be pretty amazing if they got him for a short-term deal through the WC!!! He always in the US and he’s got that Harvard gig going on so…

      Wishful thinking!

  13. “Walsh would be adept at working with the young talent Sermanni had brought in under his tenure, if that’s what U.S. Soccer wants.”

    Caitlin, tell us more about your “if that’s what U.S. Soccer wants” comment as this hits at the very heart of the Tom Sermanni story.

    I think the Old Guard narrative will be confirmed or invalidated by selection of the coach:
    Ellis or DiCicco = Old Guard, Route 1 with Wambach playing 9
    Gustavson or Walsh = youth movement, possession-based style

    • “What U.S. Soccer wants,” indeed.
      It would be nice if Gulati et al. would state clearly what the next coach’s charge is — win Canada 2015 or develop the full team for the long haul (preferably winning the WWC along the way). Really, seriously, it cannot be both.

      I fear that kernel_thai, above, is correct that a USWNT dominated by one striker’s ego and a stale playing style will likely flame out in Canada. And then we can develop a true international team based on possession, technical skill, and a multifaceted team approach.

      A couple of surprising omissions from this list: Lair and Swanson (although Lair is a bit poisonous right now). My fondest hope is that Swanson’s style is the future of the USWNT, but I am not emotionally ready to lose him from UVa.

      • Agree that it would be nice if the federation stated out in the open just what it is that their expectations are and what expectations failed to meet. Tell the fans how changing the coach is going to improve my experience vis a vis the team. I tune in to watch good soccer, not a soap opera. If I wanted to watch a soap opera I could just tune into the WWE.

  14. I would lean towards Gustavsson or Namazi. I like Riley as well but I dont see them bringing in a part time coach. None of this really matters with Wambach apparently having approval over all moves and Gulati too spineless to stand up to her. Even Alex Ferguson couldnt succeed under those conditions. Likely no matter what they do the whole thing will finally shake out after an early exit from Canada 2015. At that point Wambach will retire and someone with vision and a bit of a spine will be running the USSF.

    • I don’t know about an early exit under any scenario, but I agree that as long as Wambach is seeing major minutes there is almost no chance for the USWNT to win the Cup. And since there is pretty good evidence that she will undermine any coach who doesn’t put her on the field for major minutes, building this team will be put off until she retires. There are a few others who will need to retire as well.

      • meh, fanboys/girls see what they want to see. It’s certainly no big secret that there are a lot of players who are past their primes on the USWNT senior squad who are not happy that TS was trying shake up the status quo. Gulati as much as said so himself.

      • I don’t think it would work… Sasaki is an image of Sermani.. very lay back, straight up, old school coaches… jap players would never revolt against the leader even when losing…

        it is a different culture… Sasaki would be stabbed in the back and run outta town by the usual loud mouth US suspects…. the same suspects that have their “right” to speak their mind.

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