Tom Sermanni

More on the new U.S. Women’s National Team head coach

Leave a comment

Most fans are unfamiliar with Tom Sermanni, but given the nature of the women’s soccer world, all of U.S. Soccer’s potential hires were relative unknowns. Without a professional league on these shores, we don’t get the constant exposure that makes names for famous names on the men’s side. Who are the José Mourinho, Alex Ferguson, or even Dominic Kinnear of the women’s game? For most, the answer is “who knows?”

So don’t let Sermanni’s lack of name recognition deter you. Go onto your social networking site of choice, search around, and you’ll see a healthy amount of respect underscoring discussion of today’s appointment. Sermanni’s reported affability makes it hard for anybody to be too flummoxed by today’s decision.

Don’t underestimate the importance of personality. The U.S. women are a very unique group. That so many strong personalities are able to coexist is indicative of a potentially fragile balance (include obligatory 2007 reference here). Even if it’s not, this is a veteran team with a proven record of success. Having a personality that can promote continuity is a major plus.

Sermanni’s professional soccer life started as a midfielder in Scotland in 1973. He’d eventually have spells in England with Blackpool before ending his career in New Zealand. Soon after, his coaching career began.

Most of Sermanni’s experience has been in Oceania and Asia, initially coaching men in the North South Wales state league. In 1994, he got his first major coaching job when he began his first stint with Australia’s women’s national team. During his three-year spell with the Maltidas, Sermanni qualified Australia for their first World Cup, though the team lost all three games at China 1995 and failed to qualify for the 1996 Summer Olympics.

In 1997, Sermanni jumped back into the men’s game with Sanfrecce Hiroshima of the J-League before moving back to Australia in 1999 to manage the Canberra Cosmos of the now-defunct National Soccer League. He’d stay with the Cosmos until 2001, when he moved back into the women’s game.

That’s when Sermanni ventured to the United States to be part of the Women’s United Soccer Association, serving as an assistant coach with the San Jose CyberRays from 2001 to 2002. In 2003, Sermanni got the head coaching gig with the New York Power, leading the team to a fifth-place finish (after the team came in eighth the year before).

When WUSA folded in 2003, Sermanni briefly coached in Malaysia before starting his second spell with the Matildas in 2004. Australia had qualified for two World Cups in his absence but had yet to win a match in tournament. Now the team was about to make the jump from Oceania to the Asian confederation, where Japan, China, and Korea DPR would all provide significant challenges.

Australia was immediately competitive. Thanks in part to hosting the 2006 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, the Matildas took second place in their first Asian continental competition. Though they lost to China on penalty kicks in the final, they made their first impact on the continent with their semifinal victory over Japan. Four years later, Sermanni led the Matlidas to their first Asian title, defeating Korea DPR in 2010’s final.

Along the way, Australia started making progress in World Cups. When they showed up in 2007, Australia’s all-time record at finals was two draws, seven losses in nine games. The Maltidas only lost once in China, their 3-2 quarterfinal defeat to Brazil. Four years later, Sermanni’s team replicated the feat, making the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Sweden at Germany 2011.

That progress was about more than Sermanni’s senior level coaching. He was responsible for Australia’s entire women’s development effort, effectively serving as steward for all the talent coming into his senior team. When he returned to the head coach’s job, he sought to inject a more technical style into a team, a requirement in an Asian confederation known for that quality. The result was not only an extremely young team for Germany (average age: 21.7 years) but one that had begun shifting its approach.

It’s a the same type of shift the United States will have to undergo over the next three years. Sermanni instituted the change while Australia was stepping up in competition, yet he improved the team’s results. If the U.S. is going to start being a better possession team, Sermanni may be able to influence that change without sacrificing results.

As for how he’ll set up, there are some tendencies we see in Sermanni’s formations. He plays with four in defense, usually with two-woman midfields. For the most part, he’s played two forwards, one playing in support of the other. The numeric descriptions of the formations may change based on matchups, but those concepts – concepts we often see in the U.S. Women’s National Team – form the backbone.

His history may not be adorned with the type of major titles and lauded successes that could be linked to a job of this profile, and his name certainly doesn’t resonate, but that doesn’t matter. In a women’s coaching landscape devoid of Guardiolas and Capellos, Sermanni brings valuable experience to a team that’s going to have to change before Canada 2015. With a personality that’s unlikely to rock boats behind the scenes, he also represents a chance to maintain the team’s off-field balance.

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

Getty Images
1 Comment

Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.

Arena should give Ream a look in Brooks’ absence

FulhamFC.com
Leave a comment

With John Brooks out three months thanks to a horribly timed thigh injury, the United States yet again has to scramble to fill a void at the back. It’s not the first time an injury to Brooks has left the USMNT scrambling for cover at a thin position.

In the successful Gold Cup this past summer, with a largely domestic squad in place, Omar Gonzalez saw the bulk of the time at central defender, with Matt Besler his partner through the final two matches. However, with European-based players now in contention for spots with the early September international break, those two are unlikely to continue, at least not together.

[ MORE: Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho transfer ]

The most obvious choice to start September 1st against Costa Rica and likely shoo-in should he remain healthy for the next two weeks is Geoff Cameron. The 32-year-old has been back and forth between defense and midfield with club and country, and although he has publicly acknowledged his preference for a spot higher up the pitch, he was used in a back-three in Stoke City’s Premier League opener last weekend and is steadiest at the back.

But with a spot next to Cameron up for grabs in Brooks’ absence, a player who should get serious consideration is United States fill-in extraordinaire Tim Ream.

Ream has had to work hard to earn his place with the U.S., and while he’s seen time of late, he’s not been a first-choice pick. The 29-year-old has four caps so far in 2017, with two of those starts, including one in the impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Azteca with the US still clawing its way back up the Hex standings. Even then, Ream would likely not have earned that spot had Arena not chosen to rotate nearly the entire squad between the pair of qualifiers in that window. His other start this year, the 1-1 draw at Panama, only came after Cameron pulled out of the squad the day of the game with a late injury. The last time Ream started back-to-back matches for the U.S. came back in 2015 when he was somewhat of a regular through the second half of the calendar year.

[ MORE: LA Galaxy send Van Damme back to Belgium ]

But now, with Brooks out, Ream looks like the perfect man to fill in again. The 29-year-old defender finished last season in top form as Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion, earning the official website’s Man of the Match award in a May 2nd draw with Brentford, and won it again in the club’s final match of the season.

Without missing a beat, Ream has picked up where he left off last campaign in the first few matches this month. Last weekend against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Ream’s center-back partner Tomas Kalas was sent off 36 seconds into the match, forcing Fulham to play a man down for 89 minutes. Ream and company solidified the back, conceding just once in the 61st minute en route to a 1-1 draw.

The club still likely requires reinforcements at the CB position – Ream was forced to partner with right-back Denis Odoi against Reading with Kalas suspended and Michael Madl injured – meaning Ream could see an influx of competition in the coming weeks. However, as it stands, the American is far and away the best (and most improved) central defender on a club favored for promotion.

Gonzalez performed well in the Gold Cup, and Matt Besler was serviceable, but with few other options in the heart of defense to take Brooks’ place, Bruce Arena could yet again look to Ream for an in-form replacement.