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October 31, 2012
New USWNT coach Sermanni does plan some moves, though

By Charles Cuttone
Executive Editor

Abby Wambach and other longtime WNT stalwarts can expect some new teammates and new tactics as just-hired head coach Tom Sermanni puts his stamp on the team.
Abby Wambach and other longtime WNT stalwarts can expect some new teammates and new tactics as just-hired head coach Tom Sermanni puts his stamp on the team.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Don't expect major changes in the U.S. Women's National Team when Tom Sermanni takes over as head coach in January. But, don't expect things to stay the same either.

"I donít intend to come in here and initiate enormous change, because I donít think that is necessary, but as you go along in the job you are continually changing and you are continually trying to change the team."

Sermanni, who has coached the Australian national team during two stints for a total of 11 years, likes what he is inheriting from Pia Sundhage, who announced soon after this Summer's Olympic Gold Medal win that she was returning to Sweden to take over her home country's national side.

"The U.S. team is a very good side, with very good players," said Sermanni. "Obviously you have got to be to win the tournaments they have won. I have always tried to play a positive attacking style of football. I have always had a philosophy of trying to get players to play to their maximum abilities, not to limit them.

"I have always tried to teach players a good style to play. We want to entertain, we want to play well and we want to win games."

But for Sermanni, who has coached in the United States in the past as an assistant with the Women's United Soccer league's San Jose Cyber Rays, and then as the headman with the New York Power, change will be inevitable, because the game is changing.

"I donít think you can just sit back and hope upon hope that the team is going to be successful and the main reason for that is that the game is changing," said Sermanni. "The game is changing at a rapid pace and I think if you look at women's football now as compared to 20 years ago, the quality of the teams and closeness of the teams is much more pronounced than it was back in the 90s and the early 2000s, so you have to keep improving.

"You don't come into a team like this and suddenly make radical changes. I think that would be an unwise thing to do. What you do need to do is try to improve players as individuals and try to improve the team as a whole and try to create more competition with the squad as well."

The core of the team Sermanni is taking over is one that is starting to age. Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx, Christie Rampone and Hope Solo are all in their 30s. Some of the younger players, like Alex Morgan, have already made an impact in the team, and Sermanni says he'd like to expand the pool of players.

"We want to create a greater competition within the national team and to do that, you have to create opportunities for other players. Now, whether those are younger players or perhaps players that are in the 20s and haven't had opportunities, I don't know yet. The key thing is to be able to bring players into a national team camp and give the opportunities, and thatís what I want to try and do.

"I am certainly not averse to throwing players into the mix and giving a chance to players that are outside the established group at the moment."

Perhaps the most noticeable shift Sermanni wants to enact with the National Team is its style of play, an area Sundhage had already been trying to change, moving from an athletic, direct-attack style, to more of a subtle possession and skill game.

"I think thatís going to be necessary going forward," said the Scotland-born coach who played in more than 300 professional matches.

"You donít want to take away some of the strengths. You want to improve on the weakness but still keep those same strengths that the U.S. team has always had and actually is a huge thing that intimidates opponents and you want to keep that. But you do want to keep the balance in your team and play a better brand of soccer. Not possession for the sake of possession, but a positive style of possession.

"I think itís a reality in the modern day game that you no longer win games purely on pace and power and fitness because those gaps have now become significantly narrower, so the actual soccer content, the technical content becomes more critical. The game is going to continue to go that way and we need to continue to strive to get the U.S. team to improve in that area."

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