Tom Sermanni talks to Jill Ellis, who will serve as interim USWNT coach. Could she take over permanently? (Getty Images)

Sermanni ‘completely blindsided’ by firing from US women’s national team helm

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Tom Sermanni says he was “completely blindsided” by his firing from the head coaching position of the U.S. women’s national team on Sunday, 15 months after getting the job.

Sermanni, who was dismissed Sunday night after the United States’ 2-0 win over China in Commerce City, Colo., told Sports Illustrated that he did not get any sense of the team being uneasy with him as coach. Sermanni was under contract until the end of 2016.

SI’s Grant Wahl reports that Sunday was the first time Sermanni had spoken to U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati since the Algarve Cup last month, and the Scotsman now realizes the the U.S. is “a unique team that has certain demands.”

The questions remain, though. Why now? And why at all? Despite struggles at the Algarve Cup, Sermanni has not only won, but done so with a full rotation of young and veteran talent. He amassed an 18-2-4 record as coach, and despite recent Algarve Cup struggles that brought an end to a 43-game unbeaten streak, the direction of the U.S. women has been positive — and youthful.

But it appears that some U.S. players, according to Wahl, expressed concern regarding the direction of the team ahead of World Cup qualifying in October.

“I would assume obviously there has to be some degree of dissatisfaction among the players, otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten to this point so quickly now,” Sermanni told SI.

Sermanni said similar things to Fox Sports‘ Leander Schaerlaeckens regarding potential — however unforeseen — player discontent within the team.

“Perhaps because I’ve maybe changed things a little bit or changed some of the concepts around the team, I don’t know if players have been uncomfortable with that,” Sermanni told Fox Sports.

The Washington Post’s Steve Goff reports that an players felt like they weren’t learning and advancing, citing an anonymous source.

“We want to thank Tom for his service over the past year and half, but we felt that we needed to go in a different direction at this time,” Gulati said in a statement. “We will begin looking for a new coach immediately to guide our Women’s national team toward qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

Gulati will address media on Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET, which could provide at least some clarity on why Sermanni was fired and who filled the position.

In the meantime, Jill Ellis will once again serve as interim head coach, as she did in fall 2012 when Pia Sundhage left to take the Sweden job. The U.S. and China play again on Thursday at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online on Live Extra.

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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