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Tab Ramos

Toulon Tournament Q & A with U.S. U-20 MNT Head Coach Tab Ramos

The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team kicks off the 2013 Toulon Tournament on Tuesday against host France. Head coach Tab Ramos sat down with to discuss the upcoming event and heading into this final preparation stage for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey:

On the Toulon Tournament:
Tab Ramos: “The Toulon Tournament has been around for about 40 years, so it’s a very prestigious tournament and we’re going to respect that part of the tournament. The fact that the games are televised at home, that’s important for the players because obviously they want to be seen by their families and friends, and fans as well. It’s a great opportunity for the fans to see the next batch of young players that are coming through our system. At the same time, we have to continue to focus on what we do and we have to continue to focus on the fact that this is a tournament of preparation for us. Our main goal is to have the team 100 percent for June 21 when we play Spain.”

On being at this final stage before finalizing a U-20 World Cup roster:
TR: “This is a great situation for us, having decided to come to this tournament. We’ve been preparing for a year and a half. This is the final piece in which we the coaching staff can decide on players and put the final pieces together to have the best team possible come the World Cup in about three weeks. We’re very excited to be here. We’re excited to have this opportunity. Throughout the tournament we’ll be rotating the team and giving everybody an opportunity to play.”

On how players will be rotated in and how the staff is approaching the event:
TR: “We’re going to try to win every game. That’s how we play. At the same time, we want to give all the players an opportunity to play. So for the roster in this tournament, at no time are we going to have what we think the best starting 11 would be at any particular game. We’re going to be rotating guys. We’re going to be giving players opportunities to play, some of them in different positions they’re not accustomed to. One of the things that’s really important about this tournament for us is when we select our final 21-man roster we certainly have to select the top 13 or 14 players that we have. And then there’s a group of about five or six players that we have to select according to how many positions they can play. Obviously we’re not going to have two players per position at the World Cup, so we’re going to need guys who are going to be pretty versatile in terms of being able to change and play different positions.”

On the mix of players the U-20s have in France:
TR: “The dynamic of the personnel we have at this point is pretty diverse. We have guys in completely different situations. We have players we count on who are injured but are in the final stage of recovery, so we’re trying to help them come along and see how far we can get before the beginning of June so we can see if they’re available for us at the World Cup. We have players who have just finished a full season – Caleb Stanko being one, who’s been playing a lot of games – so we have to walk that line where we have to rest him a little bit and not get him too much time on the field. We have guys who are with their MLS teams, some of them who don’t get a lot of playing time. They’ve been training but haven’t played, so it’s important for us to give them a little bit more playing time than the rest. So there’s a balance of all those different things we have to do with this particular group in order to have everybody on the same page when we pick the final roster.”

On the growing trust and confidence he is seeing in this U-20 group:
TR: “I see that we have a team with a lot more confidence this time. Guys are buying into what we do, and at the same time they’re confident with their abilities. We have given them all that confidence for the past year and a half, but I think for them it’s difficult to trust themselves until they get results. Since we shuffled lineups around throughout the year, until we actually have to win games, it’s difficult for them to get the full confidence. But I think now we have players with a lot of confidence and I think that’s very important for us.”