Pia Sundhage took over as coach of a divided U.S. women’s national team in 2007. The U.S. finished third at the 2007 World Cup and was a team divided behind the scenes (just read Hope Solo’s book, or this excerpt).
This current U.S. team has talked about how much of a team it truly is and the evidence (including a gold medal) suggests that. So newly appointed head coach Tom Sermanni isn’t exactly walking into a war zone. But, like Sundhage, his greatest challenge will be managing players.
Yes, developing young players is the other priority. Perhaps that is priority 1A.
But with the development of young players comes some tough decisions, ultimately leading to critical management decisions. As young players develop and ultimately prove themselves ready for the senior international level, Sermanni will be tasked with whether to commit to the young talent or stick with some of the veteran players. Rest assured, there will be plenty of recognizable names available for the 2015 World Cup. Will they be selected to board the plane?
Managing those situations will not only determine the on-field success of the U.S. women, but will also keep that locker room in a good place.
It’s been publicly stated by U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati — and just about everyone — that Pia Sunhdage’s successor needs to better incorporate young players into the system. That’s great, but how would you feel if you were one of those veterans with a couple of gold medals around your neck and you have people campaigning for your replacements? It’s the reality of sport, sure, but that doesn’t mean players will roll over and accept it.
So how will Sermanni handle those touchy situations?
History tells us he does not hesitate to give opportunities to teenagers. He did it with Australia. The talent pool of the U.S. is far deeper and thus the young players getting opportunities will be more in their early 20s.
Those decisions need from Sermanni need to be well-calculated, because as valuable as some of these young players will be, there is plenty of talent and a very strong core of players on the team that just won an Olympic gold medal. None of those players will be eager to step aside just for the sake of bringing in fresh faces.
And those decisions will also determine Sermanni’s success on the biggest stage in women’s soccer, the head coaching position of the United States. Each and every decision will be analyzed with a microscope, but surely Sermanni already knows that.
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