Continued from page 1

Sundhage was unfailingly positive and believed in building her players up with constructive criticism. While that approach definitely was needed when she first arrived, some thought Sundhage should have taken a harder line when players acted up. Solo, for example, caused a stir during the Olympics when she used Twitter to criticize Brandi Chastain, a member of the 1999 World Cup champion team who was working as an NBC analyst.

Affable and even-keeled, Sermanni is considered a player’s coach like Sundhage; he made good on his deal with the Matildas to dye his silver hair red and shave his mustache if they qualified for the 2011 World Cup. But he’s not afraid to let everyone know who’s in charge, either. He kicked Lisa De Vanna, Australia’s best player, out of camp six weeks before the World Cup for disciplinary issues. She was eventually allowed to return.

He won’t be afraid to bring new players into an established lineup, either, a potentially thorny issue for the Americans in coming years. Wambach, Solo, captain Christie Rampone and the other veterans have been invaluable for the U.S., and they remain among the team’s most productive _ and popular _ players. But they are getting older, and the Americans need to at least start thinking about a succession plan.

There is a wealth of potential talent on the youth teams _ the Under-20 squad just won the World Cup _ but they’re going to need opportunities to play.

“You have to be careful you don’t miss a generation,” Sermanni said. “All the time you have to be looking to the strength of competition, to increasing the number of players that come through the international arena and you’re also looking to try and bring young players in as soon as you can, to get them that experience and see if they’re up to playing at an international level.”

Sermanni’s 2011 World Cup team was Australia’s youngest, with 13 rookies and an average age of just under 22. The youngest player on the squad, then-16-year-old Caitlin Foord, wound up being named Best Young Player of the tournament.

“It’s a critical part of the process that can come back to bite you if you don’t keep that process of regeneration going,” he said.

That can wait, however. The next major tournament isn’t until the World Cup in 2015, giving Sermanni ample time to settle in and get to know his players. He will coach Australia in an East Asian Cup Qualification tournament next month, then observe the Americans in their last three exhibition matches.

He officially takes over Jan. 1.

“You don’t often get the opportunity to coach the No. 1 team in the world,” Sermanni said. “The thought of having the challenge of doing that excites me. Having the opportunity to do that is something that doesn’t come along _ you’re lucky if it comes along.”