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What did we learn from the Toulon Tournament


Three games, three losses and a quick exit. Those poor results are the final tally of the U.S. Under-23 national team’s participation in the Toulon International Tournament, but the reality is results were never going to be the priority for the Americans. Finding some player worthy of the U.S. Olympic team was.

So what did we learn from the Toulon Tournament? Other than the fact that the B team version of the Under-23s is well below the standard of the A team, I’m not sure we learned all that much. We saw some glimpses from Sammy Ochoa, Brek Shea and Kamani Hill, but no performances that make you feel as if any of those players were going to be making an impact in Beijing this summer.

So here are some questions for you. What did you learn from the Toulon Tournament? What players, if any, really impressed you? What players do you think will make the Olympic team?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Aquaman,

    You said that Westburg > Cervi because he had some great reaction saves against Italy? Well did you forget that Cervi had some great reaction saves against Turkey, or are you just focusing on his 2 mistakes? Btw, Cervi held onto the ball on his reaction saves, something Westburg didn’t do.

  2. Brek Shea REALLY impressed me (minus the hairdo). I’d never heard of the guy, but he should have earned a spot on the Olympic squad.

    Hill was the MOTM in the first game, but was not nearly the same player in the second. Still, he deserves a spot.

    Nguyen: I had high hopes for a standout performance and was completely underwhelmed.

    Seitz was class. Solid.

    Ferrari showed glimpses…

  3. we continue to have excellent GK’s coming up the ranks — each of these 3 have big upside

    Shea was only field player that showed any true skill.

    our defense was horrendous.

    Nguyen still has a long way to go.

  4. I just watched the Turkey game. No one really stood out for me. My basic reaction was that these were guys who had clearly never played together up against a very well coached and talented group. Kind of like watching the knicks play the pistons.

    Ashe caused somewhat of an impact with his pace. Benny showed skill on the ball and with his passing but was invisible for long streches and did very little in the way of ball winning…i wish he had had a chance to try to establish himself during the other games.

  5. @Brett, the shear fact that this tournament becomes a test for fringe players and not a legitimate chance for the real team to compete against top prospects is the problem. A problem directly derived from the fact that the MLS season overlaps with the traditional offseason, preventing our best MLS youth (Altidore, Edu, Rogers, Holden, McCarty, Sturgis, etc) from gaining some more international experience and time to gel as a team.

    I’m just disapointed that the US continues to waste these opportunities (ie Copa America). That was my point.

  6. As a whole, the team did not perform that well. However, a few players strengthened their case to make the roster. In my opinion, Brek Shea was the most impressive considering his age by utilizing his skill, decent pace, and intensity on the pitch. He held the ball well, challenged defenders, and displayed a desire to win.

    Also, Kamani Hill looked really solid throughout the tourney and impressed me as a central mid. Although he was impressive on the wing before BF’s injury during the Turkey game, he played really well in the middle(not his usual position) and seemed to give the middfield a much needed lift.

    The remaining central midfield was probably the most dissappointing of the team and lacked intensity throughout the full 90. The distribution, spacing, and creating passing options for wingers and forwards lacked throughout most of the tourney.If the forwards would have had more support and service, they might have looked better.

    Considering that this tournament was used to discover any additional players for the olympic roster, it appears that the team played below par, but I was pleasantly surprised with Shea, Hill, and Beltran.

  7. Brek Shea, Chris Seitz, Lee Nguyen, Gabe Ferrari and Tony Beltran all are worthy of making the olympic team. Nguyen was not flashy for the most part (but has the ability to be so), but he played quickly and kept possession. That’s more than can be said for Hill or Arguez or most of the team most of the time. And size is not as important in soccer as its made out to be in the US. Brek Shea was a constant threat for the US whenever he was in the game, and was very willing to run at defenders. He had a considerable amount of success running at defenders as well. Tony Beltran was solid, except for an instant of insanity we all remember. Furthermore, he has been solid every time I have ever seen him play with the U-20s and Real Salt Lake. Gabe Ferrari showed an ability to look up and put in dangerous shots and crosses. His hold up play is excellent, but he was not used in that capacity, which hurt his performance. He is a poacher in the box. I would take Ferrari over Findley or Davies any day of the week. Finally, Seitz is just an exceptional keeper, and there is no reason to waste an overage slot on bringing in a keeper.

  8. as I read the posting I kept waiting for some one to say what I was thinking.

    THANK YOU CommonSense!

    Cervi is fine. Seitz is VERY GOOD and I will assume that he drew some interest from scouts during the games he played.

    Cervi is with the USMNT not because he’s going to play, and maybe not even because he’ll ever feature for the full team.

    What I think Bob is doing is just provide the young and fringe players with some additional motivation and drive to push harder. When he brings players into camp, they desperately want to get back with the squad. When he’s watching and they know it, expect them to have something to prove…which raises the quality of the game for everyone involved.

    Cervi will get some amazing experience from Howard and company, as well as experience what it’s like. Seitz will almost certainly take the next step, but he’s still behind (well behind) Howard. By starting at the Toulon Tourney, he gets noticed and hopefully signed by someone other than Real Salt Lake. Cervi, would do well to have some more experience and I doubt he’d strike any international teams radars quite yet. He needs an MLS contract.

    With the way that Zach Wells, Steve Cronin and others are plaing this year in MLS…the pool of talent in that position right now is very poor. Even Jon Busch who s having a decent season is only starting because he is trying to fill the shoes of one ore player who was sick of being paid so poorly.

    GK’s are an undervalued position in MLS.

    and outside of the GK position:

    Brek SHea could be very good…

    Poor Benny…he needs to come back to find a starting role in a team that challenges for promotion regularly in the Coca Cola Championship.

  9. At face value this tournament was a huge disappointment.

    Then you look at the make-up of our team vs. the clubs we were playing, many of whom considered this an important tournament in the build-up to the Olympics. We were playing mostly A-teams that have a solid understanding of what the manager is looking for and of eachother.

    We threw a bunch of young kids with very little experience playing together, or under Nowak, and told them to go out against kids CLEARLY more talented. There are maybe 2-3 field players that will make the full side.

    and on Cervi, you guys aren’t looking at him like a youth prospect. Keepers aren’t complete at his age, especially those with ZERO professional experience. He has glaring holes in his decision making, he doesn’t come out for the ball at the right times and his positioning can look shaky.

    He’s also as promising a young keeper as you’ll find. His reactions and agility are quite impressive, and his range/length is unquestionable. In the same vein that he made some clear mistakes, mostly mental, he was also making impressive saves against Turkey.

    Seitz is better right now, and a great prospect, but give Cervi some time, stop looking at him like you’re evaluating an established keeper. He’s getting time with the Nats for a variety of reasons, none of which involves getting actual playing time in the 3 friendlies.

  10. I think we learned that loosing Eric Brunner wasn’t the worst thing that RBNY could’ve done …he was basically burned on every play and responsible for giving more then a few goals.

  11. We learned that our U-23 B Team is very poor save a few players (Kamani Hill, Sammy Ochoa, and Chris Seitz). I’d like to see what those guys can do on a full squad or with better club opportunities. Also, our MLS-based B-Team players cannot hang with good international competition. Finally, I’ve closed the book on Lee Nguyen. He’s done.

  12. This team was never about results.

    Also, of note is most of the rest of the squads were U-21 teams.

    I believe the Ivory Coast is the only team there that sent most of their A team to get ready for the Olympics.

    Japan and Chile also brought most of its A team.

    Italy and Turkey brought 2-3 of its best players in that youth level to the tournament and the rest were B teamers.

    The Netherlands and France compared to the US. It brought its B team.

  13. Chase- how did the MLS schedule prevent Nowak from bringing an A-team?? that was never part of Nowak’s plan… he already is getting a great view of Rogers, Altidor, etc… this tourny was to look at the players he couldnt bring in on the qualifier’s camp… this was a chance for him to get a look at players he wouldnt have been able to in the middle of the euro schedules…

    if anyone is disappointed by the results, that just means you went in with unrealistic expectations…

  14. Like I stated earlier, J. Valentin was horrible in this tournament. Yes, his clearances and distribution need A LOT of work. But he also didn’t mark well and track back well enough throughout the tournament, especially against Italy.

  15. Feilhaber looked lost??? He was the best player for the US by leaps and bounds in the Turkey game until he was injured.

    The only guys that came out of this embarrassment looking good were Seitz (how is he not starting for RSL, while Cervi is on trial with Celtic? WTF?) and Shea. We saw flashes from Ochoa, Hill, and Nguyen, but nothing substantial.

    And you can only call Ferrari a “fraud” if you placed yourself under the delusion that since he played at Sampadoria he must be the next Rossi. This guys has ridiculous expectations.

    I really don’t care if it was our “B-team”, it was still a rather disapointing showing and just exhibits again how the ridiculous scheduling of the MLS season prevents the USMNT from employing its best players in these tournaments.

  16. This isn’t an indictment of Hill, cause I love the guy and think he was one of the better players at the tournament, but he still has the body language of a wing forward. It’s hard to describe, but he walks around flat footed when he isn’t directly involved in the play (kind of like Beas does when his head isn’t in it). I think that is one of those things that will be coached out of him as he continues to transition into a more defensive player.

    When he was at PSV, the coaches said that Nguyen was as skilled with the ball and at reading the game as anybody on the squad, but his problems were playing at a high level for 90 minutes (ie, staying focused) and confidence. If he can work that out at Randers then that will make a ton of people happy.

    Shea is a good, versatile player who I think will one day start for the US at left back.

    Westberg is a known talent, which makes it so weird to me that I haven’t seen him with US teams since 2005 (I think). The USSF knows he is a good player, so it makes me wonder if there are some underlying politics to him not getting selected as often.

  17. It is too tough to draw conclusions for many of these players after a very quick week. There was no team cohesion on the field because they weren’t given any time to build it.

    So even drawing conclusions for individual play, for the most part, will be misguided.

    That said, a few players showed what they are capable of or what they aren’t through individual performances.

    Kamani Hill showed flashes of being a playmaker at midfield. He has the speed, he showed the touch, ball skills, and vision to move the ball around and create chances.

    Sammy Ochoa showed he has a pretty strong right foot. But accuracy is another thing.

    Lee Nguyen was pretty disappointing. His knee injuries have certainly diminished his effectiveness. He doesn’t have enough pace to really do something out wide. But he does have good technical skills.

    As young as Brek Shea is, he showed well in limited minutes. If he stays healthy and continues his development, he’ll be a factor in deciding a roster for 2010.

    Tony Beltran showed he can be effective as a fullback. But he still made some dumb mistakes. Likewise for B. Wagner, who was hurt most by having enough pace to keep up with opposing players.

    Jon Leathers did OK. Valentin was horrible. Dalby was invisible.

    Cervi didn’t show much. Seitz showed a lot. Westberg showed he is capable, great stuff against Italy.

    The player that was hurt the most from the lack of team chemistry on the field is Gabe Ferrari.

    He received no service what so ever. When he did get the ball at his feet, he showed he can keep possession and create some space to try and make something happen. But those moments were very few and far between. I still believe he can do something if he was playing with an “A” lineup.

  18. Agree that Hill may be better in the center, perhaps as a holding or attacking mid. Nice skills and very confident.

    Guys are being kind of harsh with Ferrari. There was no continuity in this game, so players who naturally free-lance had the better of the ball. Ferrari had little or no service, but when he did, he looked like he knows how to post.

    Shea is rangy, fast, and fearless. could pretty much play anywhere in the front 6 and be effective.

    Feilhaber looks so, so lost…. makes me sad.

    Ashe definitely commanded attention from the opposing D when he was in there.

    Nguyen looked good, but still seems to have some issues with instilling his presence on the field.

  19. Here is what I saw.

    B Shea – 18 year old will be good in the future not sure if MNT good but good. He showed good touch and fight.

    Gabe F – Hit a screamer in the Italy game. Needs to gain some weight and make better runs.

    Davies – Good prospect. Big strong defender.

    Ochoa – Needs to be more assertive. He is 22. But that strike gives you hope.

    Hill – Is 23 and should have looked good in those games.

    Ashe – Right FOOT.

    Arguez – He trains in Europe? Gave the ball away ALOT. I know he is young but he better listen and keep learning at Hertha.

    Seitz – Is very good. First game would have been different if he is in goal. I think.

    Overall – Bad passing and just really nervy on the ball. was it cuase those guys got together like 5 days before the event. The other teams are U-21’s that are getting ready for a U-21 tournament. I htink they broguht the A teams. Right? But hey this was a B team for sure and some of those guys are U-20’s not U-23’s. Hey if we had Bradley, Adu, Jozy, Zizzo, Orozco, Holden, Rogers, Feilhaber (all tourney) etc…. Things might have been different.

  20. I agree that Arguez looked pretty bad, especially against the Ivory Coast. He did a little better against Italy but there were a lot of balls played to no one. Instead of winning possesion he seemed to enjoy clearing the ball…which is usually a last ditch effort done by defenders and not ball winning mids. He’s not so much a ball winner as a ball blaster (which reminds me of some ex-girlfriends)

  21. I love Shea (since I’m a huge FCD fan) but I think he could benefit youth teams and the full national with playing a left wing or mid rather than a forward. Don’t ge me wrong, he was a good forward with his size, speed and skill but I think he could be a killer along the left side. It always seems that we have trouble deciding who to put at the outside mids for national team call-ups and I think Shea could immediately be one of the better left sided players.

    Kamani Hill wasn’t ever a fringe player, I don’t think. He was pretty good in qualifying as a defender on the right side and was very good as a midfielder in this tournament. I think he could be used better as a central mid though because he leaves the right side open way too often. He did this in qualifying as a defender and in this tournament as a right sided mid. He tended to pinch in from the right in the tournamen and in qualifying, he’d go on long attacking runs, both of which left the ride side pretty wide open. If he’s put in the central mid, he won’t drift and I think he can be used as either a holding mid or a creative player.

  22. I was actually disappointed with Arguez. Shocked at the number of balls that he played to nobody. It was also difficult to tell if our defenders were useless or whether our midfielders provided them with no support. But some of the giveaways from Wagner and one or two other guys (Valentin maybe) were pretty bad. I agree that Shea was ok, but not sure if he is better than anybody on the qualifying team. Hill was ok, but I don’t think he is better than Rogers as a midfielder. Maybe his versatility is attractive.

  23. I didn’t watch all of it but I was impressed with Brek Shea and it seemed the Leathers guy played tough. Other than that I thought the team pretty much sucked.

  24. lets also be frank here…. this was simply a B squad of U23’s… and quite frankly, hardly any of which have ever played together… they got together 2 days prior to their first match, hardly enough to grow into a team….

    but back to the point…

    4 guys stood out: Shea, Nguyen, Hill and Seitz…

    1 guy surprised me: the keeper in the 2nd half of the italy game (too lazy to look him up)

    mind you i only saw the italy game so im not one to say who out-shone who…

    Shea and Hill seem to stand the best chance at moving on to the roster, as they are Utility players… they can play numerous positions if asked and still produce quality… Hill is naturally a foward, but has shown he can play defense and outside mid with form…. the announcers kept saying Shea’s best position maybe wide, but as he showed against the italians, he can certainly bring life up top… he gave us dangerous opportunities not to mention a tall target man in the box

  25. it’s more than a little insulting to call Ferrari a “fraud,” dontcha think? what did he ever promise to you? i just don’t get the level of vitriol aimed at our young, developing players sometimes.

  26. I doubt a lot of people stuck it out through the second half of the Italy game, but for all those who are saying that Seitz is better than Cervi I present Westberg > Cervi. He made one or two spectacular reflex saves against a very good Italy team. I think Westberg should get called in before Cervi, but Nowak fell in love with Cervi at the Draft Combine and is not going to give up on his love without a fight (he’s romantic like that).

    I also said something about Ferrari being decent in this tournament in the RBNY-Fire commentary this weekend. I would like to take that back and say Ferrari was decent in the Turkey game. I think if he’s employed more as a CAM than a target player, he makes some good turns with the ball and I saw him (and Feilhaber) get through multiple defenders before putting in a cross that found no one. Granted, that’s a poor sign, but if he’s in the center of the feild, his crossing ability won’t hamper him. He just seemed to have quick feet and nice cuts and turns with defenders around him, but he couldn’t win balls in the air and needed balls played to his feet.

    I also agree that Nguyen was pretty good in the second half against Italy, but before that half his flashes were few and far between. I think with a full season getting playing time with Randers will do him a lot of good and he’ll become more consistent.

  27. A couple things. I liked Brek Shea. Showed no fear and was willing to attack. His height and left footedness should make him a candidate for 2014. Chris Seitz is MILES ahead of Dominic Cervi. For all the accolades and the Celtic trial, every game I’ve seen in which he is the GK, he is good for a couple mistakes. Bryan Arguez is a pretty decent talent and should do well at Hertha, given a chance. Gabe Ferrari is a fraud. No pace, bad touch, someone should tell him getting 35 DNPs at Sampdoria is not the way to advance your career.

  28. Hey, sorry about this off-topic post.

    I’m flying out of Newark tomorrow evening and was wondering if anyone could recommend a bar to catch the game. Doesn’t need to be incredibly close to EWR as I don’t fly out until 9.


  29. We learned that there is a big drop-off in talent and athletic ability from our first 25 to our second 25. From the Toulon roster I doubt anyone but the goalies (who will backup Keller or Guzan) and Hill will be in Beijing.

  30. I watched the Italy game and thought Nguyan and Shea brought some energy into the game. Shea in particular stood out to me for his size and commitment to winning balls.

    Lesson to all of you out there who may be playing – YOU MUST BE A TWO FOOTED PLAYER!

    I am tired of seeing our players only use one foot. If you are uncomfortable with your weak foot, then spend a week playing with it, until you do. (Corey Ashe missed chances because he wanted his left foot – Holden misses chances because he only has one foot too).

  31. I believe we learned that Gabe Ferrari is wasting his time in Sampdoria. The kid should come back to the states, sign with MLS and start competing for a first team job. He might be a nice option at forward for RBNY when Altidore moves on.

  32. Hey Ives- One question that came to me during the Ivory Coast game was why is Chris Seitz not getting first team action and attention from European scouts. He seemed much better then Cervi who was called to the full team and training with Celtic. I think Seitz had a much better showing. Any word on potential move for him? Also, I thought Shea certainly did not look out of place for being one of the youngest on the team. i think the kid has real potential with his size and technical ability.

  33. Lee Nguyen is skillful, but small and slow. Those are two things that are tough to change.

    Kamani Hill looked good, and versatile, at times.

    Chris Seitz will be very, very good within 3-5 years.

    Gabe Ferrari looked lost for long stretches out there. I saw him play in person with the U-20s a year or two ago, and he was a beast. Don’t know what happened to him.

    Sammy Ochoa had his moments, but had no service.

    Brek Shea brought great energy.

    I actually liked what I saw from Bryan Arguez, he just needs to be more assertive. But, a big guy who strikes the ball well.

    There’s a reason Dominic Cervi doesn’t have a team.

    The entire defensive unit was terrible.

  34. I only caught 2/3 of the italy game, but Lee Nguyen was clearly classy enough to play with the italians. He was by far our most skilled player. And Corey Ashe needs a right foot.

  35. I don’t think we learned anything we didn’t already know: no good youth development systems in place, lack of depth in international player pool, short moments of greatness overshadowed by long moments of below averageness, etc.

    That said, I’m fairly certain we were playing A-sides from all the teams we faced. So maybe we shouldn’t be too horribly disappointed.


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