Wambach: Players not behind Sermanni's firing
By BERNIE WILSON
CHULA VISTA, Calif. (AP) Abby Wambach quickly dismissed any notion that players on the U.S. women's soccer team were behind the surprise firing of coach Tom Sermanni.
"Everybody out there who may think the players made this happen, none of it's true," Wambach said Tuesday after a spirited workout on a cloudless, 90-degree day, the team's first since Sermanni was fired Sunday after an exhibition victory against China in suburban Denver.
Wambach said it appeared that Sermanni's philosophy wasn't matching up with that of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
"That's not anyone's fault. That's the hard part," she said. "I wish he was a jerk in some ways because it would be easier. But that's just not the case. He's such a good guy. He treated us all with the utmost respect and we couldn't wish him nothing but the best of luck."
Sermanni addressed the team after he was fired, Wambach said.
"It takes a lot of courage to get up there and do what he did," said Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who was named the women's world player of the year by FIFA in 2012.
"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," Wambach added. "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. We love and care for him so much and we appreciate everything that has happened."
Wambach and goalkeeper Hope Solo said that if the players did have a role in Sermanni's firing, it was by not playing better during a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Algarve Cup in Portugal last month.
"We didn't play our best soccer in Portugal," Solo said. "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."
Solo said it's been "a somber couple of days. It's been tough. This is our first training without Tom here. Anytime you go through change it's going to be hard. But through the thick and the toughest of times, this team always bounces back. We still have a good 15 months before the World Cup and I have no doubt we're going to be on top of our game next summer."
Wambach said U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati does his due diligence, so firing Sermanni, who is Scottish, likely wasn't a hasty decision.
"Every coach that comes on has their own philosophy and stamp that they want to put on the game. For us, we're very American, attack-oriented, score goals until the 95th minute," she said. "That's how we are. 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."
Sermanni helped the U.S. to a 13-0-3 record last year, but the Americans went 1-2-1 at the Algarve Cup, the last major tournament for the U.S. before World Cup qualifying. The seventh-place finish included a 1-0 loss to Sweden and former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, ending a two-year, 43-game unbeaten streak. That was the first loss following a 16-0-4 start under Sermanni.
While the timing was a shock, "the goal is to be on the top podium come Canada 2015," said Wambach, the greatest goal scorer in international soccer with 167. "If our president, if the federation didn't feel like we were going in that direction, then it's their job to make sure that we're put in the best environment to get there."
Interim coach Jill Ellis was on her way to San Diego for Thursday night's game against China. She went 5-0-2 in that role in 2012.
"There are high standards for the women's team," Solo said. "There should be high standards because we're the No. 1 team in the world and we should never settle for being seventh place in any tournament."
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson
Updated April 8, 2014