Hope Solo: Sermanni a better communicator than Sundhage

The candid American goalkeeper believes the new national team manager has made quite an impression on the team and also touches on what team unity means from her perspective.
Tom Sermanni may not be the unique personality that Pia Sundhage was during her four-year stint in charge of the United States women's team. He hasn't made major news off the field and he doesn't sing during post-match press conferences.

But one of the squad's most popular players has hinted he may be a better fit for the high-profile position.

"What I like about Tom is he's just upfront and that's really different from Pia," goalkeeper Hope Solo told Goal during a telephone interview in late July. "With Pia, you always guessed what she was thinking as a player. Socially, she was not the best. It wasn't the direct communication that players need, especially mature, older players."

Photos: Hope Solo's career through the years

Sundhage had a huge impact during her time as the U.S. boss, winning two Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 along with a FIFA's Women Coach of the Year award in 2012. Off the pitch, Sundhage generated interest as she revealed herself as gay in a 2010 interview and was never shy to show off her singing voice when given the opportunity.

Solo appreciated Sundhage and the success the Swedish coach brought to the Stars and Stripes, but the veteran thinks Sermanni's approach to coaching will improve the team even further, calling him a leader who has earned the respect of his players.

"He seems pretty set in his ways in a way that all of our players respect. He's a leader," Solo explained. "He knows what he wants and knows how to get it. Each player is treated the same. He's not influenced by big-name players and at the top level, that's what you need."

Solo is hoping that under Sermanni she can finally win her first World Cup. The U.S. finished as the runner-up to Japan in the 2011 competition in Germany.

"My No. 1 goal and what I've spent my entire life striving to achieve is to win a World Cup," Solo stated. "I want to retire so badly with that World Cup, but if I don't, then I'll retire knowing that I've done everything I could to get it."

The U.S. players have often looked like a close-knit group as they have become household names for many American sports fans, perhaps even more well-known than the men. But Solo is quick to point out that she and her teammates may not be as tight away from the game as one would think.

Since Solo's public criticism of being benched in the 2007 World Cup semifinals, where the U.S. lost 4-0, her relationships with teammates - especially Abby Wambach - has been closely watched. Wambach was one of several players who supported then-coach Greg Ryan's decision to bench Solo. 

While she may still have some issues with the teammates who were behind that decision, according to recent interviews, Solo insisted that the most important aspect of teams are the results on the field. Relationships off of it shouldn't be the focus if the team is doing well.

"I think people have different definitions of team unity. My definition is doing whatever it takes to win, what makes a great team, it's performance on the field, respect on the field," Solo explained. "Unity doesn't mean that we as women go to the movies and go shopping together.

"As women professional athletes, you have to have respect for every player and individual. Beyond that, it doesn't matter what your interests are. People can have their own lives."

Hope Solo spoke with Goal as a part of Gatorade's Beat The Heat campaign.