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Sunil Gulati Conference Call

On Monday, U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati held a conference call to address the coaching situation a day after Tom Sermanni was fired as head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team. U.S. Soccer will provide a complete transcript of the call. Here are some topics discussed in the conference call:

On player input in the decision:
Gulati stressed there is an ongoing assessment of the team, which includes formal and informal discussions with not only players but also staff and others involved with the program. When asked if players sought him out to raise concerns, Gulati said he wouldn’t go into specifics about who reached out to who but, “It’s not a group of players who came to us and said, ‘There’s something wrong here.’” Asked about the possibility of a player mutiny, he reiterated, “This wasn’t a collective group of players saying we have to make a change.”

On differences in style:
It’s no secret Sermanni’s style — laid back is often used — is different than Sundhage’s. While acknowledging there is no way to guarantee all players will buy into a coach’s style, Gulati said, “It’s important the collective buy into it and we had some concerns there.” As for how and when new talent is integrated, Gulati was clear that the infusion of talent and how much and how quickly is a decision left up to the coach. The development process, Gulati said, will narrow as major competitions approach.

On the search process:
Gulati didn’t see a problem with the search process and saw no need to change it. As for the next coach, the search process has already started and Gulati said he wants to have a coach in place by the summertime schedule, if not sooner. Asked if there was a shortlist, Gulati said, “… a very shortlist, the answer is yes.”

On gender as an issue:
Given the choice of two candidates with equal qualifications but of different genders, Gulati said his preference is to go with a woman as head coach. The same holds true in considering an American or foreign coach. The first consideration, however, is to pick the best person to lead the program, Gulati said.

On the timing of the firing:
There was not a specific event which led to Sermanni’s firing. Gulati said he didn’t think there was a “hastiness” with the decision. Rather, it was the result of an ongoing assessment process. The results at the Algarve Cup were part of that ongoing assessment as well as an overall evaluation of the team’s direction and input from players and those around the team. Gulati said the U.S. teams are monitored carefully and the assessment took into consideration a longer period than just the Algarve Cup but noted the results there “may have brought some of the issues to the forefront.”

Asked whether there had been conversations with Sermanni beforehand, Gulati said there had been ongoing conversations about the team’s direction and one after the Algarve Cup.

On friendlies and assessing the team:
Gulati noted the high-level evaluations of the team occur where the “team gets tested” and that happens at competitions like the Algarve Cup or in friendlies against stronger teams. He acknowledged the overall record of the team doesn’t give the full picture when assessing the team.  The difficulty, though, is there are 8-12 teams that can provide the level of competition faced at the Algarve, he said. He then cited some challenges, including scheduling and travel, in arranging matches against strong opponents such as Japan and Germany.

Gulati called Sermanni an “absolute classy guy” but a decision had to be made in terms of where the team needed to be for World Cup qualifying in October and for next summer.

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