Abby Wambach says that neither she nor any of the other players on the United States Women’s Soccer team had anything to do with the surprise firing of coach Tom Sermanni Sunday night, and that in fact, the team “loved and respected” the 59-year-old Scotsman who took over as the U.S. women’s coach in October of 2012.
The sudden dismissal of Sermanni by the United States Soccer Federation came after a victory. The U.S. team defeated China 2-0 in the first of a two-game friendly series — but just hours after the match, Sermanni was fired. Interim Head Coach Jill Ellis will guide the team into the second leg of its China exhibition series, Thursday at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
“Everybody out there who may think the players made this happen, none of it’s true,” said the 33-year-old team leader Abby Wambach on Tuesday, after the team completed its practice workout in San Diego — the team’s first practice without Sermanni running the show.
Wambach added that even after being fired, Sermanni gathered the team to tell them the news.
“The hard part is Tom is such an amazing guy and he is so classy and the way he handled himself even after being told he was being let go was maybe some of the best people experience I’ve ever seen,” said Abby Wambach. “He handled himself with the utmost respect, wished us the very best. He did the very best that he could. He’s brought us along for these last 15 months to here.”
The team “love and respected him so much,” said Wambach.
The U.S. team finished an uncharacteristic seventh place in a tournament, the Algarve Cup, held in Portugal last month. U.S team goalie Hope Solo said that the team’s disappointing showing was likely a factor in the firing of Sermanni.
“We didn’t play our best soccer in Portugal,” said Solo. “We came in seventh place. That’s not good enough for this team. At the end of the day, we failed Tom. We didn’t put together a great tournament.”
Midfielder Carli Lloyd joined Abby Wambach and Hope Solo in saying she was “shocked” by the firing of Sermanni.
But Abby Wambach said she believes that the U.S. Soccer Federation felt that Sermanni’s philosophy did not gel with the U.S. style of play.
“We’re very American, attack-oriented, score goals until the 95th minute,” Abby Wambach said. “I think that maybe the direction of the team wasn’t going in the direction the federation had hoped, not only the Algarve result, but I think just in general.”