Gulati explains process behind Sermanni firing

The U.S. Soccer president shed some light on the process that led to Tom Sermanni's surprising dismissal as head coach of the U.S. women's national team.
Sunil Gulati didn’t offer many specifics when he addressed media regarding the recent firing of Tom Sermanni as head coach of the U.S. women’s national team. The president of U.S. Soccer simply laid out the process that led to Sermanni’s dismissal after just 16 months on the job.

“Obviously we thought Tom was the best candidate when we hired him, and in terms of the record it was quite good,” Gulati said in a media conference call on Monday. “It’s probably three or four things. One of those things is the subjective evaluation about where the team is going and heading, and that’s something that (CEO and secretary general of U.S. Soccer) Dan (Flynn) and I talked a lot about.

“Two is talking with people in and around the team, and whenever we have changes or possible changes or directional changes with our national team program we do that quite a bit. We talk to players. We talk to staff. We talk to people who observe the team, and we rely on our own assessment.

“Third, of course, is the results at the Algarve (Cup) weren’t what we had hoped for. The standards for this team are very high, and for the program are very high. And that doesn’t mean one loss or even two losses would necessitate or push us towards a change.

But it’s all of those factors, and talking all of the people I’ve mentioned, and looking at things ourselves, we think that we needed to go in a different direction.”

Gulati downplayed suggestions that Sermanni was ousted because of unhappiness by veteran players on the team. Sermanni had been experimenting with young players, and trying a new system, but Gulati stopped short of saying there was a player revolt. He would only admit that players were part of the process U.S. Soccer used to reach the decision to fire Sermanni.

“This isn’t a group of players coming to seek us out and saying there’s something wrong and we need to do something,” Gulati said. “That’s not what was the underlying issue here.”

While Gulati downplayed the notion of a player revolt, another one of his comments seemed to suggest that player unhappiness with Sermanni’s approach did play a key factor in his departure.

“Tom does have a unique style, and Pia’s was very different,” Gulati said. “What I would say is that the demands, both of all us toward the women’s program, and in some ways the women’s team itself through themselves, fits very well with certain styles and not so well with other styles.

“It’s rare that everyone in a particular team finds a style that they buy into, but it’s important that the collective buy into the direction and how you’re moving forward, and we had some concerns there, and that was part of the decision.”

Gulati also defended the process U.S. Soccer used to select Sermanni as head coach back in January 2013, pointing out that many of the same people who worked together to select Sermanni also hired highly-successful former U.S. women’s coach Pia Sundhage.

“It was virtually the same process we used in hiring Pia (Sundhage), and she obviously won two (Olympic) gold medals and lost on penalty kicks in a World Cup final, so I’m not sure it’s about the process.

“We think we made the best decision at the time. it hasn’t worked out the way we had hoped, and the way Tom would have hoped, but I wouldn’t question the process we used to get to the final decision regarding Tom or Pia.”

Gulati wouldn’t reveal any names of candidates being considered to replace Sermanni, but he did say that interim head coach Jill Kelly is a strong candidate.