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Published September 17, 2015
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 played in their first international game.
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.
"It's been very different, and it's been awesome," Leroux said. "It's been great because it keeps the competition and the level high with us. We're always working hard because someone can take your position. I think it's a lot different, and I think all the players really respect that."
There has been one little hitch in the transition to the American team for 59-year-old coach.
"I think I brought a Scottish sense of humor than nobody understands," Sermanni said. "I'm quite often misinterpreted."
Leroux, who admittedly thinks nearly everything is funny, described the coach's humor as "a little different — very sarcastic and dry." But the players are starting to understand some of his one-liners and other phrases.
"Tom is definitely more laid back, and he likes to have a good time and make jokes," Wambach said. "We didn't really even understand his humor at first, so we didn't know if we should laugh or what was going on. But he's been a fresh breath of air."