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Q & A with Tab Ramos: “Our focus becomes identifying players… for the future of U.S. Soccer.” Having finished the U-20 World Cup this past summer, what does the focus of the players and coaching staff shift to since you are not preparing for a major tournament any time soon ?
Tab Ramos: “Now our focus becomes identifying players that we believe will project into what we are going to need for the next U-20 World Cup and then the future of U.S. Soccer.” The last U-20 World Cup was a great learning opportunity for the players and coaches. How does that experience inform the direction you want to take the U-20 program ?
TR: “Coaching is a learning process, you’re always learning. I think every experience makes you better. I certainly believe that every age group has its different challenges. As we move into this age group, there are a lot more players who already signed with professional clubs, which is obviously an advantage to us.

“At the same time, we don’t know what the competition is going to bring. We don’t know what the other teams have. We don’t know how competitive in general this age group is going to be compared to the last one. So, all we can do is focus on ourselves and focus on picking, as we have in the past, the best, most skillful players who are willing to work for the team and do all the things that make a team better.” : With that in mind, what is the thinking that goes into building the roster for the upcoming international training camp in Verona, Italy ?
TR : “This camp is purely a camp where we can get a better idea of where our players are. Most of the players that we have selected for this camp are based overseas and the ones who are not, who are from here, are already with MLS clubs. They are all players who are getting great experiences, and this particular camp gives us a good chance to see them in an international camp, playing in an international environment, which will give us a good idea of what these players can do.” Will there be mostly new faces at this training camp? If not, and you bring in players who have been around the U-20 program already, what are you expecting from them ?
TR: “Most of the players coming to the camp are players we’ve seen before. Many of them have done well with the U-18 team that is moving up now that Javier Perez coached. Some of them are coming straight from the U-17 team that Richie Williams coached. So, we’re very familiar with the talent we have coming up. We know that the ’95 group in general is, I think, a strong one. We are just looking to see how they are coming along and how we think they’re going to fit into the way we play.” From the senior National Team down through the youth teams, U.S. Soccer has taken on the challenge of facing the best competition it can schedule. In light of that overall ambition, what do you want to see from the roster you take to compete in Italy? What kind of measuring stick will this be for the team ?
TR: “In terms of the approach here, it’s not going to be different. Every team we play, we’re going to play to win the game. Certainly, we want to play in a particular way. We are a team that is, for the most part, a pressure team that’s going to play the game at a high pace and that’s going to want to have the ball at all times.

“These are the challenges we have to get through and normally when you go into a new batch of players who come in, it takes a little while for them to adapt. In the last cycle, it took us a good year before the players understood the concepts of what we wanted to do. Once we were able to get everybody on the same page, I think we became a very good team. We are hoping we can move in that same direction with this team.” Having coached through that last cycle and now having a better idea of what you want to do with the U-20 program, what are some things you want to keep the same and what are some things you want to do different this time around ?
TR: “Some of the things we’d like to do the same are play under the same philosophy. We want to find players who are comfortable with the ball, players who are not afraid to have the ball in traffic, and other players who are not afraid to play the ball into traffic to players who are confident with it. That’s something that’s not going to change. We want to develop players who want to accept that type of challenge, that’s not going to change.

“I think some of the things that may change is according to the opponents and according to what CONCACAF is going to look like this time around. We’re going to need to determine the talent that we have, and whether we can be a little more of a transition team, whether our transition can be a little bit faster. I thought our last team lacked that both going forward and defending. The focus will be to do the best we can to find all the ingredients we found last time, but to have that transitional aspect I thought that last group lacked.”