Pia Sundhage’s Sept. 1 announcement that she was stepping down from her post as the U.S. women’s soccer head coach to take over in Sweden was a blow to the world’s No. 1 team.
Sundhage had just led the U.S. to its third-straight Olympic gold in London (second under her guidance) and the team’s chemistry was peaking. How could the most endeared women’s soccer coach in all the land be replaced? Enter the ‘stache.
U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that Tom Sermanni will replace Sundhage effective Jan. 1, 2013. Sermanni previously coached Australia to the last two World Cups and the jovial Scotsman is about as close as you’ll get to matching Sundhage’s chipper personality – he just doesn’t play the guitar.
But seriously, Sermanni’s management plan, in a word, is about balance. U.S. women’s soccer fans have largely campaigned for a mass overhaul of the current team in favor of younger players, a sentiment that falls somewhere between never satisfied and just plain foolish.
Don’t worry, Sermanni won’t be handing out pink slips to the older veteran players any time soon. He realizes how young players deserve opportunities (he regularly developed teenage players with Australia), but also knows he has walked into an already winning formula.
“I think there’s misconception about the [U.S.] team,” Sermanni said Wednesday in some of his first words as U.S. coach. “Teams get pigeonholed often and it’s a false perception of what they’re about. The U.S. team gets pigeonholed as a strong, physical team. This U.S. team is actually a good footballing team and they’ve got some very talented and gifted players in there.”
So players like 37-year-old captain Christie Rampone and 35-year-old midfielder Shannon Boxx can breathe a little easier (Sermanni specifically praised those two players) knowing that they are part of Sermanni’s plans.
So U.S. women’s soccer fans will just have to keep freaking out about there not being enough ‘change’ for their liking. The rest of us are looking forward to what’s next. Fear the ‘stache.
Jeff Kassouf covered women’s soccer during the Olympics and is an online producer for NBCSports.com. He’s also devilishly handsome. Follow him on Twitter here.
But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.
She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, is her top remaining challenger in Paris.
No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round. No. 4 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who has three wins over Swiatek this year, withdrew before her third-round match due to illness.
No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the top hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seleswon the 1996 Australian Open.
But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.
Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.
Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.
Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).
All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.