Tom Sermanni wasn't most people's favored choice to be United States manager when he was hired in October 2012. He also didn't generate a wave of popular support in his 16 months on the job, despite the team going undefeated in 2013. Still, he didn't appear to be on the chopping block at this point, not even after a hugely disappointing Algarve Cup that saw the Americans finish seventh.
So what happened?
It's still not clear exactly why Sermanni was fired. Sunil Gulati offered up a typical quote about appreciating Sermanni's efforts and Sermanni was gracious in thanking the U.S. for the opportunity. At this point, speculation and tidbits from various reports are all there is.
The natural place to look is the players, who may not have loved Sermanni, especially after playing for the wildly popular Pia Sundhage. He constantly toyed with lineups, formations and styles of play, something that could have bothered a team with many veterans who had past success and may have been resistant to any change.
An interview with Alex Morgan last month indicated that there was some frustration with the constant tinkering, and this from someone who wasn't even at the Algarve Cup so one could make the leap that this wasn't a new point of discussion among U.S. players. But it is just that -- a leap.
In Sermanni's defense, he made it clear from the beginning that he intended to make changes to the team and with 30 months before a major tournament, he experimented to try and find the right mix thinking he had until the summer of 2015 to find something that worked. In theory, what Sermanni was doing made sense, but whether he communicated that well with the players and got them to buy into his new direction could have been another thing altogether.
If an anonymous quote to Steven Goff is any indication, that is where the problem was. Sermanni didn't convince the team he was doing anything more than throwing things at the wall and hoping something stuck.
Of course, single anonymous sources are to be looked at with heavy skepticism. Is that source a current player? A former player? Someone on the staff now? A guy who knows a girl? We don't know and it's tough to put much stock in this source as a result.
The Algarve Cup failure gives the USSF a pretty good breaking off point with Sermanni, and the win over China wasn't exactly dominating.
But that doesn't erase a 13-0-3 record in 2013 or three wins to start 2014. It doesn't erase Sermanni getting Australia out of the group in the 2007 and 2011 Women's World Cups when they had never made it to the knockout stages before. It doesn't erase Gulati and the rest of the USSF standing firmly behind Sermanni less than two years ago when they picked him over several other attractive candidates.
Making matters stranger is when they made the move. The U.S. beat China in a friendly earlier on Sunday and had another friendly scheduled for Thursday so the timing couldn't have been odder. If the Algarve Cup was the issue, why did he manage against China, and if it wasn't an outright revolt, why didn't they wait until after Thursday?
Those are just more questions to pile on to a topic that already has enough. And very few answers.
What we do know is the USSF has 14 months before the Women's World Cup and no manager.