Tom Sermanni

Report: Alex Morgan to Orlando in blockbuster trade

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The Orlando Pride have been around, officially, for all of a day and a half, and yet the expansion National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) club (owned by the same folks in charge of MLS side Orlando City SC) is set to make the signing of the offseason.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

According to a report from SI’s Grant Wahl, a deal has been agreed between the Pride and the Portland Thorns that will see U.S. women’s national team superstar Alex Morgan head to the Sunshine State, where she’ll be able to live in the same city as her husband, Orlando City midfielder Servando Carrasco, and play for former USWNT head coach Tom Sermanni.

Morgan, who featured heavily during the USWNT’s 2015 Women’s World Cup triumph, played each of the last three seasons (since the NWSL’s inception in 2013) for the Thorns.

From Wahl’s report:

In return for Morgan, Portland is set to receive Orlando’s first pick in the NWSL draft, two international slots, U.S. national team fullback Meghan Klingenberg (who’s expected to not be one of the two protected national team players from Houston) and likely Lindsay Horan as the first new allocation coming in from overseas if Horan decides to join the NWSL from PSG.

Given that the Lions and Pride are operated by the same ownership group, a city like Orlando was always the most likely destination for the USWNT star and her slightly less famous husband (Portland Timbers and Houston Dynamo owners also own and operate their own NWSL teams).

The same circumstances surround fellow USWNT superstar Sydney Leroux, who plays for the Western New York Flash and is married to Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer. Rumors of a proposed trade to FC Kansas City have been regularly floated since the two announced their marriage on Valentine’s Day, but FCKC is owned by a group separate from Sporting KC.

NWSL adds 10th team in Orlando Pride; Sermanni to coach

@ORLPride
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The National Women’s Soccer League finally has its 10th team, and it will be coached by a successful boss.

Ex-USWNT boss Tom Sermanni is set to lead the Orlando Pride into battle next season, with a similar color scheme to the Lions from Orlando City SC of Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: Rapinoe, Solo, Lloyd up for Women’s Ballon d’Or ]

It’ll be interesting to see which USWNT players will be ready to play for Sermanni in club soccer. It’s been widely-speculated that the leadership group of players in the national team engineered his exit in 2014.

From Equalizer Soccer:

Orlando becomes the third NWSL franchise owned by a group which also owns the city’s Major League Soccer franchise, joining Portland Thorns FC (sister club of Portland Timbers FC) and the Houston Dash (sister club of the Houston Dynamo).

That puts teams in the states of Florida, Washington, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas, Kansas and Oregon.

And Pride, in addition to being a group of lions, is a shrewd and forward-thinking marketing move from the OCSC brass.

With friendlies over, USWNT begins search for a lot of what it already had

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With Thursday’s ill-timed friendly out of the way — a 3-0 victory over China in a result that was never in doubt — the focus of the United States women’s national team is now solely on finding a new coach.

Tom Sermanni’s abrupt firing on Sunday night shortly after the United States’ first victory over the week of China left the team in disarray. Sermanni, who was 18-2-4 as U.S. coach, said he was “completely blindsided” by the news. Midfielder Carli Lloyd said she and other players were “as shocked as everyone was.” And U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati only vaguely alluded to “underlying issues” being the reason for Sermanni’s demise, noting that it was a “style” issue.

Details remain elusive. But players will now quickly board flights to catch up with their National Women’s Soccer League teams for the opening of the 2014 season this weekend, and they won’t meet again as a U.S. team until the days ahead of their May 8 match against Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

That gives Gulati and U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn, along with whomever may be assisting in the process, a month to dig in on the search without any distractions of on-field performances. Gulati admitted Monday that the process could stretch into the summertime.

What kind of coach the United States women really want remains about as vague as what went wrong for Sermanni. The candidate is almost certainly going to come from within the small group of coaches extremely familiar with the team and the player pool, given the short, 14-month buildup to the World Cup.

Lloyd told NBC Sports  as much on Tuesday, saying that the players have faith in U.S. Soccer bringing in someone ready for the job.

“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.”

Lloyd proceeded to tell NBC Sports postgame that “this team just needs somebody to steer us in the right direction.”

Heather O’Reilly said in Thursday’s pregame show that the U.S. women need a coach who can “that’s going to blend this team — blend the old, blend the new,” she said:

What’s ironic is that Sermanni did exactly that: He brought in and developed young talent while still evaluating how his squad could look in 2015, where anything short of a World Cup title will be a failure. The very objectives that U.S. Soccer officials and players seek are some of the core philosophies of Sermanni, which is why he was hired in the first place. An eye on winning now and an eye on development. A win, two losses and a draw at the Algarve Cup didn’t help Sermanni, but Gulati says it was about more than that week gone wrong in Portugal last month.

Sermanni was too laid back, it keeps being said, but laid back isn’t the right way to put it. His predecessor, Pia Sundhage, was laid back, just in a very different, more upbeat and care-free sort of way. But she was also very clear that her team was her team, and changes would be made only by necessity or extremely poor performance (which didn’t even really happen after the U.S. nearly failed to qualify for the World Cup).

So it seems that what U.S. Soccer really wants is someone to stamp some authority into a team that already has an overflow of talent. They want disciplinarian with a clear, firm message on what he or she envisions for the team. As NBCSN analyst Kate Markgraf says below, the shortlist at this point is likely current Tyresö boss and former U.S. assistant (under Sundhage) Tony Gustavsson, plus Portland Thorns FC coach Paul Riley and Houston Dash coach Randy Waldrum, both of whom said on Tuesday that they think it’s possible to coach club and country at the same time, effectively tossing their names into the hat. Both were finalists for the U.S. job in fall 2012.

And then there’s current interim coach Jill Ellis (pictured above), who improved to 6-0-2 as temporary U.S. boss with Thursday’s win after also guiding the team in fall 2012. Last time around, when Sermanni was ultimately hired, Ellis withdrew her name from consideration. Ex-U.S. assistant and Penn State coach Erica Walsh could also be in the mix.

At the end of the day, the basic ideals the U.S. Soccer officials and the women’s national team players are looking for were all right there with Sermanni. What’s really desired is a personality that fits with the squad, and an authority to manage the world’s No. 1 team for six years running.

Watch Live: USWNT vs. China PR (Lineups and Discuss)

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As we laid out earlier in our match preview, the buzz surrounding a mid-April friendly between the United States women’s national team and a China PR team they’ve routinely beaten is anything but ordinary (Watch live from California at 11pm ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

After beating tonight’s opponents 2-0 on Sunday — but truly controlling everything but their finishing — the USWNT underwent a major shakeup later that night, as US Soccer fired head coach Tom Sermanni after just 15 months on the job.

Jill Ellis is back at the helm for her second interim stint in the last year-and-a-half. During her last go at the gig, she finished unbeaten at 5-0-2.

Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe scored for the States in Sunday’s win.

There are two changes to the Starting XI from Sunday, with Whitney Engen and Christen Press departing from the lineup in favor of veterans Megan Rapinoe and Rachel Van Hollebeke (Buehler).

The match is Hope Solo’s 150th cap.

WATCH LIVE ON NBCSN AND ONLINE AT 11PM ET VIA LIVE EXTRA

LINEUPS

United States: Solo; Krieger, Van Hollebeke, Sauerbrunn-C, Klingenberg; Brian, Lloyd, Rapinoe; O’Reilly, Holiday, Leroux

Subs: O’Hara, Engen, Rodriguez, Heath, Naeher, Wambach, Press

China PR: Zhang Yue; Wang Lingling, Zeng Ying, Li Dongna, Liu Shanshan; Wang Shanshan, Ren Guixin, Zhang Rui, Zhang Xin; Li Ying, Yang Li

Subs: Wang Yun; Xu Yanlu, Huang Yini, Gao Qi, Wan Chen, Li Xiangli, Han Peng, Zhou Feifei, Wang Lisi, Lou Jiahui, Song Duan

USWNT-China preview: Plenty of post-firing intrigue on NBCSN tonight

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There’s far more intrigue involved in Thursday’s rematch between the United States women’s national team and China (Watch live from California at 11pm ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) than there was after the Yanks controlled possession and chances but lacked finish in a 2-0 win in Colorado on Sunday.

That’s because US Soccer unexpectedly parted ways with head coach Tom Sermanni mere hours after the win, and the explanations since have been anything but sufficient. US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said the coach’s style wasn’t meshing with the organization’s goals, and hinted that there were “personality-driven” issues.

But don’t tell that to the players, who to a woman are saying how shocked they are and how tremendous a coach and person Sermanni was during his 15 months in charge. Star Carli Lloyd was “shocked as everyone else,” while legend Abby Wambach was flat-out dismissive that there was a player revolt.

Which, of course, is why there have been rumors that players were barred from talking about the firing on social media (that only renegade Hope Solo disobeyed).

So it seems tonight is a bit of a no-win situation, aside from the obvious “W” that comes from beating China. If the US finishes the a larger percentage of the chances created against China earlier in the week, they’ll absolutely squash the competition and there will be some talk that the players threw their coach under the bus. If the US looks poor again, well, that’s an even bigger problem.

If Sermanni did anything while in charge, it was having the guts to introduce the next generation into the full national team fold ahead of World Cup 2015 in Canada. Some of those faces will be on the scene tonight, and the starting lineup from interim coach Jill Ellis — longtime US assistant going back to the Pia Sundhage era — could tell us more than a little about who’s speaking truly about the upheaval at US Soccer.