U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team head coach Andi Herzog spoke with ussoccer.com about the Toulon Tournament and the U-23’s continued preparation for October’s CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship
ussoccer.com: What can you say about this group that’s been brought together for the Toulon Tournament?
Andi Herzog: “I’m happy; I think we have a good group together. It’s mostly the same players we had against Mexico and the first Bosnia and Denmark trips. I want to have a little continuity and hopefully it will work in France. Obviously it’s a situation where a lot of MLS teams have a lot of games during the same time period, so mostly the players starting for the MLS teams were not released.”
ussoccer.com: How does this renowned tournament help prepare the team for the Olympic Qualifying Championship?
AH: “This tournament in France is huge because there are a lot of great opponents. The other thing is we play a game every second day, so we will need everyone on the field and we’ll have to make a lot of changes from game to game. I think it’s a great chance for every single player to be able to be a big part of the team who will qualify for the Olympics.”
ussoccer.com: How did the fact that the tournament schedule features games every other day go into the makeup of this roster?
AH: “It’s clear: You need to double up every position. Overall we have a good group together with some young kids playing, like Marc Pelosi coming back after a long injury, so it will be interesting to see all of them.”
ussoccer.com: Over the years a number of the world’s great international footballers have played in this tournament. What does that say about the challenge ahead for the team?
AH: “It’s a great challenge and it’s a great opportunity for us to play against some of the best. The France team is the defending World Champion at the Under-20 level from two years ago in Turkey. They were the best team in the world two years ago and they are our first opponent, so that will be a real good possibility to see how good we already are.”
“It’s a huge tournament. I think at this age group, there’s the World Cup and for the Olympics, but apart from those competition, this is the biggest tournament in this age group. You have all the regular teams like England, Netherlands, France, Mexico, USA competing against each other, so at this age group that’s a really, really good competition.
ussoccer.com: How would you describe the form of the players on the roster coming in?
AH: “We have two or three players that had injuries before, but I talked to them and they’re fine, so it’s normal. For every National Team coach it’s always the same. You don’t train on a regular basis, so it’s just from month to month you see your players. That’s why I want to keep going always with most of the same players if they do well. Hopefully we made the right decisions.
AH: “Developing players for the senior National Tam has to be our goal. I think for a youth team it’s important to compete on the highest level at World Cups and Olympics, but overall the most important thing is you get at least two or three players for the National Team as regular starters afterwards. Otherwise we did a bad job as coaches.”