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.

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.