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Scotsman who guided Aussies takes over US women

WASHINGTON (AFP) –

Scotsman Tom Sermanni, pictured in 2011

Scotsman Tom Sermanni, pictured in 2011, who spent 11 years guiding Australia through three Women’s World Cups, wants more competition for positions as he becomes coach of the top-ranked United States squad.

Scotsman Tom Sermanni, who spent 11 years guiding Australia through three Women’s World Cups, wants more competition for positions as he becomes coach of the top-ranked United States squad.

The 58-year-old from Glasgow takes over on January 1 from Pia Sundhage, who departed to coach the national team in her native Sweden after guiding the Americans to victory over Japan in the London Olympics final.

“We wanted someone who could continue to keep us where we are, which is at the top,” US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. “He knows the challenges to keeping us No. 1 in the world and is ready to meet those challenges.”

Sermanni played more than 300 professional matches as a midfielder from 1971 through 1989 and has coached in Japan, Malaysia and in the defunct Women’s United Soccer Association with the Bay Area CyberRays and New York Power.

“The important thing would be to have as much competition as possible for spots on the team,” Sermanni said.

“We want to create greater competition within the national team. That means you have to create opportunities. That’s what we want to do. The mechanics of that I’m not sure about just yet.”

Sermanni spent the past eight years coaching Australia, including berths in the 2007 and 2011 Women’s World Cups, and guided the Matildas from 1994-1997, including their Women’s World Cup debut in 1995.

“I’m real excited,” Sermanni said. “I feel privleged to have this chance. It’s not often you get the chance to coach the number one team in the world. I’m anxious to get started.

“I’ve always tried to play a positive, attacking style of football. I’ve always encouraged players to play to their maximum level. We want to entertain, we want to win games and we want to play well.”

The US women have topped the world rankings since winning 2008 Beijing Olympic gold although the Americans lost to Japan in the 2011 Women’s World Cup final. The key will be preparing to raise their level for the 2015 event in Canada.

“I don’t intend to come in and initiate enormous changes but as you move along you are trying to make small changes and improve the team,” Sermanni said. “You don’t come in and make radical changes. That would be unwise.

“It’s a balance. You can’t sit back and hope upon hope the team is going to be successful. The game is changing. You have to keep improving. Soccer ability becomes more critical. The game is going to continue to move that way.

“We have a gifted and talented team. The foundation is already there. It’s not like you’re trying to start from scratch. It’s just getting on the training field with the players and trying to continue to develop the style of play.”

Sermanni said Australia’s W-League women’s pro circuit added development for his national squad and hopes talk of a revived US women’s league is successful.

“That made an enormous impact on the Australian team,” he said. “Some of the same principles would exist.”

Sermanni advanced Australia into the world’s top 10, with quarter-final runs in the past two Women’s World Cups and a 2010 Asian Women’s Cup title.

The Americans won the Olympic crown with such veterans as 31-year-old goalkeeper Hope Solo and 37-year-old captain Christie Rampone, and Sermanni is ready to keep them on the squad in 2015, if they can earn their spots.

“I don’t want to judge players on chronological age. I’ll judge them on performance and their ability and desire to play at the highest level,” he said.

“You sort of have a plan in place but it tends and wander and meander as you go along. The premise I have is to maintain and improve the team, increase competition for positions and keep a brand of soccer that is technically good.”

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