Sermanni finds coaching US women unique job

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FRISCO, Texas (AP) - Tom Sermanni found out in his first year coaching the top-ranked U.S. team what a unique job he now has in women’s soccer.

There is the immense popularity of the American players, the large size of the program compared to other countries, and the seemingly endless depth of available and developing talent.

“Other countries, where you’re out there trying to search for talent, here, you’re trying to compare the talent that’s there,” Sermanni said.

The U.S. team was coming off its fourth Olympic gold medal when Sermanni took over in January 2013. With qualifying for the next World Cup not until the end of this year, the Scottish-born coach who spent the previous eight years with Australia’s national team was able to take more of a get-acquainted approach - and still has an unbeaten record (13-0-3).

Sermanni has already called 44 different players into at least one camp. And 32 of those got in an international game - 10 of them playing in their first ones.

When the Americans play their 2014 opener for Sermanni’s second season Friday night, in North Texas with a friendly against Canada, there will start to be a different emphasis.

“Last year was a year of what I called assessment and opportunity. This year is a year of performance and results,” Sermanni said. “What I’m looking for now is that players are going to make me pick them … Performance individually, team-wise and the effectiveness of the team becomes much more important this year.”

Despite the gold medals, being ranked No. 1 in the world since the 2008 Olympics, a 77-game unbeaten streak in the United States and a 39-game unbeaten streak overall, the Americans haven’t won the World Cup since 1999.

Sermanni transformed Australia’s youthful team from an international lightweight into the No. 9 team in the world that reached the quarterfinals of the last two World Cups.

Abby Wambach, the top international goal scorer with 163 who is also the most experienced and oldest American player, tweeted that she was “really pumped” when Sermanni was first appointed to the job. She still feels the same way 15 months later.

“What’s great about the way he’s kind of progressed in this first year is he stuck to his plan,” Wambach said. “He wanted to bring a lot of new players in. It’s a new cycle.”

Wambach is also confident that Sermanni will tighten the focus to settle on a solid starting group as qualifying nears for the 2015 World Cup in Canada.

Carli Lloyd echoed Wambach and praised Sermanni for “not completing changing everything, but mixing in veteran players with younger players.”

That is a bit different than his predecessor, Pia Sundhage, who after the 2012 Olympics returned to be head coach of her native Sweden.

Sydney Leroux said it was quickly clear that Sermanni was willing to switch things up, providing a balance of young players itching for their chance with experienced veterans.

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