Lloyd on Sermanni’s firing: ‘I was shocked as much as everyone else was’

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Midfielder Carli Lloyd said Tom Sermanni’s firing as U.S. women’s national team coach caught her off guard just like so many others, including teammates.

“I was shocked as much as everybody else was,” Lloyd said Tuesday from San Diego.

“It’s not something you think about after getting on the bus after a victory and getting called in for a meeting, so I really was just taken by surprise. It’s just a very tough situation.”

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said that the federation needed to move in a “different direction,” saying that Sermanni’s style wasn’t working, a conversation Gulati says was accelerated by discussions with players and staff and recent results. There were “underlying issues,” he said.

“It’s rare that everyone in a particular team finds a style that they buy into, but it’s important that they collectively buy into the direction and how you are moving forward, and we had some concerns there,” he said.

Sermanni said Monday that even he was shocked. He didn’t see any warning signs or have any conversations that led him to believe his job was on the line, and he “didn’t sense that there was across-the-board dissatisfaction” within the team.

Gulati said on Monday that players did not seek him out, dismissing any ideas that players collectively sought change, but he did say that players and staff surrounding the team were consulted in the evaluation process.

“Whenever we have changes or possible changes or directional changes – whatever you want to call it – with our national team program, we do that quite a bit. We talk to players, we talk to staff, we talk to people that observe the team and we also rely on our own assessment.”

Lloyd was not one of those players, she says, and didn’t know of any conversations between Gulati and players regarding Sermanni’s performance.

“I really wasn’t aware of if there were conversations, if some people were unhappy,” she said. “I just go out there and play the game and do what I do best, and that’s just working hard every day.”

source: AP
Tom Sermanni was shocked by his firing as USWNT coach. (AP)

U.S. players have not commented much since Sermanni’s firing. Abby Wambach told the Associated Press on Tuesday that there’s no truth to a rumored player revolt and goalkeeper Hope Solo said “at the end of the day, we failed Tom, we didn’t put together a good tournament” at the Algarve Cup.

Now the U.S. team is in need of a coach just over a year before the World Cup. Qualifying takes place in October. Jill Ellis is the interim coach, starting Thursday in San Diego against China (11 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Live Extra). Gulati says the search process has begun for a new coach, and they hope to have him or her in place “certainly by the summertime schedule…if not sooner.”

Lloyd isn’t concerned about the tight turnaround to the World Cup, admitting the circumstances will require a coach familiar with the team.

“I think we’re well aware that we don’t have too much time, but at the same time I don’t think we’re really worried,” she said. “We’ve got faith and trust in U.S. Soccer that they will hire somebody who is somewhat familiar. I’m sure it’s not going to be somebody who has no idea about our team and the players. I think it would most definitely be somebody who has got to be familiar with the system, the pool to make that transition a little bit easy.”

On Tuesday, Portland Thorns FC coach Paul Riley and Houston Dash coach Randy Waldrum both said they don’t think it would be impossible for a coach to temporarily handle both club and country duties, though both say they have not been approached about the U.S. job. Riley and Waldrum were finalists in the last search that yielded Sermanni, but each coach has since begun his new respective NWSL jobs in the last five months.

Elllis could be a serious candidate as well. She knows the system and already served as interim coach in late 2012 before Sermanni was hired and after Pia Sundhage left. Ellis compiled a record of 5-0-2, though she removed herself from contention from the permanent job last time around.

And as much as the timing for regrouping looks tight, there is something of a precedent for success under tight timelines. The U.S. won their second of three straight Olympic gold medals in 2008 with only nine months of preparation under Sundhage. Lloyd scored the Olympic gold medal-clinching goal in 2008 and 2012.

“Some of us have been through this situation, obviously, with the 2007 World Cup with Pia coming,” Lloyd said, referencing Greg Ryan being let go in late 2007. “She had a really short time to prepare us for the Olympics. We had maybe eight months with her, so we’ve got a little bit longer now.”

Lukaku coy on Everton future, says “decision has already been made”

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Romelu Lukaku has made it no secret that he hopes to play Champions League football, and reality may be setting in that the opportunity to do so won’t come at Everton.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break during Ireland match ]

While the Belgium international hasn’t dealt his hand in regards to his future at Goodison Park, it seems as though the Toffees could be losing out on keeping their star striker.

[ MORE: UEFA qualifying roundup — Wales in trouble, Buffon hits 1000 ]

Last month, agent Mino Raiola claimed that Lukaku’s deal with the English side was 99.9 percent complete, however, the 23-year-old has still yet to ink a new contract.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s UEFA World Cup qualifier against Greece, Lukaku says that his future plans are already made up.

“The decision has already been made so I can’t talk about that,” Lukaku said of his future at Everton.

The former Anderlecht standout has had nothing but success since joining Everton, first on loan and then making a permanent transfer from Chelsea in 2014. Over the combined stints, Lukaku has bagged 83 goals in all competitions for the Toffees, but the young attacker says there’s nothing wrong with having “ambition.”

“There is nothing wrong with ambition. You have to embrace it and where you are as a footballer,” Lukaku said. “I’ve made a long way until now but the road is still long and I know I have to improve and get better. I want to help Everton as much as I can, as well as the national team. I think a lot of stuff can be achieved.

“Sometimes people will mistake things that I say but it’s just ambition that I have; I want to win titles and trophies and I don’t think people should take that as arrogance — people should embrace it.

“This is what footballers need to achieve if they want to become the best, and I think young kids need to learn that too.”

Making sense out of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras

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In the lead up to Friday night’s clash at Avaya Stadium, the U.S. Men’s National Team was faced with a must-win scenario. What came next though was a bit more shocking than most U.S. Soccer supporters could have possibly imagined.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT’s win over Honduras ]

An emphatic 6-0 scoreline was how it finished in San Jose, California as the USMNT took down Honduras to lift itself out of the cellar of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but it’s how Bruce Arena’s side picked up the result that was so impressive.

After an extended layoff that began in the final months of the 2016 Major League Soccer season, Clint Dempsey has returned to both club and country with a vengeance following Friday’s performance. The artist formerly known as “Deuce” recorded a hat-trick in a span of 22 minutes to solidify an already convincing American lead, leaving Dempsey just two goals shy of Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT scoring record (57).

Dempsey wasn’t the only bright spot though, as Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Jozy Altidore and most notably, Christian Pulisic, turned in stellar performances that really left Honduras with no chance to find its rhythm in the match.

The 18-year-old Pulisic continues to be the talk of the town when it comes to the USMNT, and rightfully so given his club situation. There’s never been a U.S. talent succeeding at a club as big as Borussia Dortmund at such a young age, and Pulisic’s effort against Los Catrachos proved further that the young attacker could be the playmaker the Yanks have been looking for since Donovan’s retirement.

Meanwhile, another player that turned in a great performance was Jozy Altidore, and probably not for the reasons you’d normally think. The Toronto FC striker didn’t get on the scoresheet, however, it was Altidore’s hold-up play and vision that helped the U.S. dominate Honduras.

Altidore has long been a staple of the American attack, and an important one at that with his 37 international goals, which ranks third all-time for the U.S.. If the 27-year-old is able to replicate more performances like Friday night though, that makes the Stars and Stripes significantly more dangerous because of Altidore’s duel-threat ability.

The lone area the U.S. will look to clean up heading into Tuesday’s important qualifying match against Panama will be some of the team’s defensive letdowns. Jorge Villafana turned in a strong performance in his WCQ debut at left back, while veteran Omar Gonzalez had several moments of weakness in the heart of the American backline.

The Pachuca defender was caught out of position on several occasions and gave the ball away at times as well, but fortunately for the U.S., Honduras was unable to capitalize on those errors.

Overall though, the U.S. did exactly what it needed… and then some. The three points was all Arena’s group could have hoped for from the start after lackluster performances against Mexico and Costa Rica back in November, but adding six goals could certainly help down the road as well if goal differential becomes a key factor in the Hexagonal.

It’s difficult to say the U.S. is back because that’s a relative phrase that can be interpreted in numerous ways. The USMNT put in a stellar performance, albeit without key players like Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin defensively, while Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones are two others that didn’t feature.

[ MORE: Three takeaways from USMNT’s emphatic win on Friday night ]

Only time will tell when it comes to how this team gels over an extended period of time, but it was certainly a dream start for the Americans as Arena Part Deux continues.

Up next, Panama.

Chastain, MacMillan inducted into US Soccer Hall of Fame

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Brandi Chastain looked at the assembled crowd in a tent under the rain and addressed former coach Tony DiCicco, who had just introduced her at the induction ceremony for the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

[ MORE: USMNT smashes six past Honduras in CONCACAF WCQ ]

“Thank you, not just for today but for every day that you gave me the chance to play for the women’s national team, and for having the confidence in me and the guts to tell me I wasn’t going to be a forward,” she said.

Chastain, a forward on the 1991 World Cup champions and a left back whose penalty kick won a shootout for the 1999 title, was inducted Friday night along with midfielder Shannon MacMillan, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion three years later.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT’s win over Honduras ]

The ceremony was held before the U.S. men played Honduras in a World Cup qualifier.

Remembered most for pulling off her shirt after her World Cup-winning goal and celebrating in a sports bra, Chastain grew up in San Jose and talked about her early days playing youth soccer in the area, starting with the Quakettes. After winning her first World Cup title, she was left off the 1995 roster. She revived her career as a defender.

“Change is good. Though, scary, it’s good. And I think we would all benefit from seeing change as an opportunity for growth and development, and for a new adventure,” she said.

Now 38, Chastain scored 30 goals in 192 international appearances and also won a pair of Olympic gold medals. MacMillan, 42, had 60 in 176 international games.

“It was always such a massive honor that gave me chills every time I walked in that locker room, whether it was my first cap, my 100th cap or my last cap,” MacMillan said. “It was something that I never took for granted.”

Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy was given the Colin Jose Media Award.

The Hall’s building in Oneonta, New York, closed in 2010 and a new Hall is being built in Frisco, Texas.

Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.