Tab_ramos_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_2018_u-20_camp_-_casey_brooke_lawson Casey Brooke Lawson/ISI
U.S. U-20 Spotlight

Ramos pleased with U-20 progress as qualifying nears

Tab Ramos has had success during his last two cycles in charge of the U.S. U-20 team but this cycle will present challenges of an early qualying tournament and several key players now focused on the full national team. ASN's Brian Sciaretta interviewed Ramos on the team's progress. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 31, 2018
6:00 AM
UNITED STATES Youth Technical Director and U-20 national team head coach Tab Ramos is pressing forward in his fourth consecutive cycle leading the team. After leading his last two teams to consecutive World Cup quarterfinal appearances, this year he is presented with a different array of challenges.  

For one, three players in Tyler Adams, Tim Weah, and Josh Sargent currently eligible for the U-20 team are now on the full national team and juggling their responsibilities is tricky. But this cycle also has an earlier qualifying schedule and Ramos does not have much time to sort through his player pool and build his roster.

With such unique circumstances surrounding this group, ASN’s Brian Sciaretta interviewed Ramos about how the U-20 team is progressing this cycle.

Brian Sciaretta for ASN: There has been a lot of talk about the dates of U-20 World Cup qualifying being pushed up this cycle? Do you know the dates of the tournament and will the United States host it? Will a potential international window help with getting players released? 

Ramos: Yes, it will be November 3-21 at IMG Academy in Florida. International window or not, U-20 players do not have to be released.

ASN: Last year you ran into a tough situation with Schalke in terms of their willingness to release players like Nick Taitague and Weston McKennie throughout the cycle. How are you finding European teams this cycle in terms of cooperating with you?

Ramos: I will be going to Europe to meet with teams late this summer, but I cannot do that until we know internally which players will be senior national team players, which will be Olympic players and then which can attend U-20 competitions.

ASN: In compared with previous cycles, how prepared do you believe this team is for World Cup qualifying and how do you assess the overall talent of this age group? What are the team's strengths and where do you think the team needs to get better? Are there still many players out there that you haven't looked at but that you still want to?

Ramos: With everything that has been going on with our senior national team, we started this cycle late and will have much earlier qualifying. Our preparation, which normally is somewhere around eight camps and 16-17 months, is cut to five camps and 10 months so it will be different. With less camps it is difficult to look at the same number of players.

I’m trying to look at as many as I can and I do feel good about the core group of the players I have seen: Brady Scott, Mark McKenzie, Matt Real, Chris Goslin, Richie Ledezma, Andrew Carleton, Justin Rennicks, Jonathan Amon, Manny Perez and Alex Mendez. Paxton Pomykal and Brandon Servania have been injured and Chris Durkin could potentially play a big part. [I] would like to get Nick Taitague, Tim Weah and Josh Sargent but we will see.

Tyler Adams should only play for the senior national team and Olympic team, but I am sure that these are conversations to be had with the new GM, whoever that might be.

ASN: Efrain Alvarez is performing very well for the LA Galaxy II right now. At this moment, he has been playing for Mexico. As a dual national, have you been involved with discussions to perhaps get him involved with the U.S. U-20 team or playing for the United States at some level?

Ramos: I flew to LA in January to meet with LA Galaxy and with the families of Ulysses Llanez and Alex Mendez. I had very good meetings with both families. At the time, LA Galaxy thought that I should not meet with the Alvarez family because he is with Mexico. I like Efrain. He is a good player. But I agree with LA Galaxy. He is very young and there is no need to pressure such a young player. U.S. is his country of birth, where he grew up, where he lives and where he has his friends. I am sure he is torn. I think Mexico doesn’t worry about that, they come here and speak with anyone.

ASN: On a second level, Union Berlin and Germany U-19 central defender Lennard Maloney recently told ASN in an interview that he would be eager to play for the United States, is he on your radar?

Ramos: I have spoken with Lennard and his father. He is ready and excited to play for us. He was on our roster for our last camp but his club pulled him back a couple of days before we were leaving to Honduras.

ASN: Jonathan Amon has had some very important breakthrough performances with FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark and has earned positive reviews. He seemed to be out of the picture for the U.S. team in recent years. How surprised are you at his emergence? Do you believe he will be an important part of the team?

Ramos: Amon should be one of our core players. He has the special ability to get by defenders 1v1 and create danger in the final third from a wide position. There aren’t many of those players around.

ASN: So many players on the recent U.S. national team rosters are products of your U-20 teams. How much satisfaction does that give you? How optimistic are you for the future of this full national team?

Ramos: I absolutely love seeing all of those young players on the senior team. This is why we do all the work at the younger age-groups. We always let them know how special it would be to get there and drive them towards that goal. Our youth teams are just a vehicle to provide competitive international experiences and accelerate their development. I am happy when they step on the field for the senior national team and feel completely comfortable. Lots of credit to ALL of our Youth National Team coaches.

ASN: In MLS, Tyler Adams, Chris Durkin, and Mark McKenzie are playing regularly in MLS while a few others are getting occasional minutes while many are in USL. How do you assess the opportunities of the current U-20 age group based domestically? Are they earning enough minutes, and are the opportunities there right now?

Ramos: There is no secret that our young players do not get enough opportunities overall. If Tyler Adams, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty, Chris Durkin, Kellyn Acosta, Brooks Lennon and Justen Glad were at different clubs than their current, they would be so much further behind in their development. Some clubs recognize that they can get a return on the investment they are making on their academies, but they have to take chances and give opportunities.

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