U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said Sunday's decision to fire women's Coach Tom Sermanni less than seven months before the start of World Cup qualifying was not made in haste but was the result of consultation with several people inside and outside the team.
"Whenever we have changes or possible changes or directional changes with our national team program we ... talk to players, we talk to staff, we talk to people who’ve observed the team and we also rely on our own assessment," Gulati said in a conference call Monday. "It’s all of those factors and assessing, based on talking to all the people I’ve mentioned and looking at things ourselves, that we needed to go in a different direction."
Sermanni, who took over the top-ranked women's team 15 months ago, was fired hours after a 2-0 U.S. victory over China in an international friendly in Colorado. The teams meet in San Diego on Thursday, when former UCLA coach Jill Ellis will be on the sidelines as the interim U.S. coach.
There had been grumbling among the players about Sermanni's style, dissatisfaction that reached a head after the U.S. had its unbeaten streak ended at 43 games by Sweden in last month's Algarve Cup in Portugal. The Americans lost their next game to Denmark and finished seventh in the tournament.
Sermanni, former coach of the Australian women's team, said Sunday he was blindsided by the firing. But Gulati challenged the notion that a mutiny was developing.
"I don’t want to get into specifics of who reached out to whom and so on. But we’ve had discussions with players, with staff, with people around the team. And observed ourselves," he said. "So this isn’t a group of players coming to seek us out and saying there’s something wrong and we need to do something. That’s not what was the underlying issue here."
This is the second time in less than seven years that Gulati finds himself looking for a women's coach on the eve of a major competition. In 2007, he did not extend Greg Ryan's contract 10 months before the Olympics and gave the job to Pia Sundhage, who led the U.S. to two Olympic titles and a second-place finish in the 2011 World Cup.
When Sundhage returned to her native Sweden after the London Olympics, a lengthy search led to Sermanni's hiring in January 2013. In 24 games with the U.S., his Sermanni had an 18-2-4 record.
Gulati said he has a "very short list" of candidates to fill the coaching vacancy. But he declined to put a deadline on the selection process.
"The ideal timeline would be as quickly as we can," he said. "But the usual cavaet to that [is] as long as we make the right decision, the best decision we can. Certainly by the summertime schedule we’d want to have this in place, if not sooner."