By RYAN TOLMICH
The Toulon Tournament may not officially be over for the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team, but those involved are already taking a bit of time to reflect on the lessons learned.
After kicking off the tournament on May 27 with a disappointing 3-1 loss to France, the U.S. rebounded with its most impressive performance just two days later to defeat the Netherlands by the same scoreline. A lackluster 2-1 loss to Costa Rica and a 1-0 victory over Qatar came in the four days that followed, leaving the U.S. on the outside looking in when it came to sealing a spot in the next round.
Having earned six points from a rapid-fire schedule of four games, head coach Andi Herzog feels that his side could have certainly done better, especially in the pair of losses. However, with a packed schedule and a relatively inexperienced roster, Herzog has found some positives with his side’s performance in France.
“We have to do better, but as a coach you have to think about all the positives as well,” said Herzog. “We had a very tough schedule. We had to play every other day and my players are not used to playing this way and (in Tuesday’s matchup with Qatar), we rested some of our key players in the first half and in the second half I thought they would make the difference, but they were not on the level that they were against Netherlands.”
As two of the team’s more experience international players, Jordan Morris and Julian Green agreed with their head coach’s sentiments. Morris and Green, both of whom have scored senior team goal, said that the tournament served as a major lesson that mistakes will be punished, proving the need to be on their A-game each and every minute on the field.
“I think we learn that we have to approach every game in the way that we approached the game against Netherlands,” Morris said. “We saw that we came out flat against France and they punished us for it and when you play really good teams they’ll punish you for it, but I think we rebounded really well in the second half of that game and in all other games.
“I don’t think that our work rate was the issue. I think that in all games it’s important to learn that mentality that we’re just going to outwork the other team and I think we did that this tournament and it’s something we’ll take to qualifying.”
Added Green: “We know we have a lot of work to do. We saw from the first game against France that every little mistake can change the game and that’s what we can learn from these games.”
With those lessons learned, the U.S. is now forced into playing the waiting game and need help from the French in order to advance into the third-place game.
Regardless, midfielder Dan Metzger says that the tournament has proven to be a major lesson, and that should the opportunity arise, the U.S. will be ready to go for one more game.
“It’s unfortunate that we put ourselves in this situation, where we have to rely on some teams,” Metzger said. “We’re hoping for the best from France to put up some good results, so it’s just a waiting game right now.
“Every international game is going to be a battle no matter what the team is,” Metzger added, “and no matter what the circumstance is, we’ve just got to stick with what we know best.”
Worst part of this tournament was watching us lose to Costa Rica, a team we will probably play in Concacaf qualifying. Add that to the fact that we couldn’t beat Panama in u-20 Concacaf qualifying for the u-20 World Cup, and we can assume the Central-American top teams are on par with us. We definitely know that Mexico is on par with us if not better. All this to say that Olympic qualifying won’t be a walk in the park and is not assured.
it doesn’t help that MLS is now 50% foreigners, where are young americans going to play it that number keeps increasing?
I thought America was all about competition and free markets. We just have to be better. There will always be members of the system and ownership groups who favor weaker American players over stronger foreign players but in general the solution is be better and stop expecting college soccer to produce our talent as though it can make a player who is par with a young professional who has been a pro for 6-8 years by the time the college player is done with school and just entering the work force. We have to go back to the 1910s on this. Young professionalism is where we fall behind in the global marketplace for world football. American exceptionalism keeps our boys running hard for 90 minutes but it doesn’t provide technical ability or tactical nous.
The academies are both the pathway for talented young Americans to find their way to the league, and the way for them to develop their talents so they do better once they’re there
MLs is improving and growing.
So they, like all leagues are on the lookout for younger, cheaper, better players. And they are paying better than they used to. The bottom line is that chances are very good that a lot of those players will not be Americans. Think of how many of our CONCACAF partners now have some of their best young players in MLS.
MLS is not in the business of developing players just for the USMNT.
Those of you who think the growth and improvement of MLS automatically means a better USMNT should look at England where the majority of the dominant players in the EPL are not English. It is a dual edged sword. The Americans who are good enough to play regularly will benefit but how many of them will there be?
How many MLS teams are dominated by American players?
The most important things about tourneys like these, in my opinion, is finding future national team players more-so than overall team performance.
In that vein, the things I learned were that Morris and Alashe have Full Team futures, and guys like Packwood and O’Neil really need to get regular minutes somewhere, because holy crap they looked bad at times.
And Green still has huge upside, I just hope he gets into a better playing situation next season for Bayern or on loan.
Dani Metzger was someone who impressed me who hasn’t been talked about very much. Good holding midfielder. A lot of potential there.
First lesson learned: beat your CONCACAF opponents, so that you can participate in the Olympic Games.
Amen to that!! Whats the point to send the US team to far off tournaments, ostensibly to learn how to beat European, Asian or African teams, when you cannot even beat your next door neighbors!