ussoccer.com sat down with U.S. Under-20 MNT head coach Tab Ramos to discuss the upcoming trip to England and the team’s overall preparation for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand this summer.
On the team’s preparation and schedule leading into the U-20 World Cup:
"Right now we have our entire plan set leading up to the World Cup. We’ve got this trip to England first from March 23-30, which will include a game against England’s U-21s, which will be a good measuring stick for us to see where we are. England always has good players, and to play them there will be a good competitive game for us.
"From there we are going to Austria from April 18-26, which will include a couple games against Qatar and another against Croatia. Those are two different types of teams, but I think are teams that will prepare us well for the World Cup. They are both high caliber teams, and I think they’re both gearing up as well.
"And then after that we head out to Australia in the middle of May for training in advance of going to New Zealand. So we have a pretty busy schedule.”
On his goals for the camps in England and Austria:
“Now that we’ve qualified to the World Cup, I obviously have a good gauge in terms of where our players are, and how most players respond because we had them in a very tough competition, in difficult fields, in must-win games. But also, it’s an opportunity to bring in one or two new players over the next couple months and see who’s doing well in their league.
"Desevio Payne has been doing well in Holland. He’s a player we’ve never seen before. He’s a starter now for Groningen in the first division. He’s going to be a new player on this roster. So as players pop up over the next couple months, we have to take a look because who is in good form is going to be really important for us.”
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On if other new players apart from Desevio Payne may be brought in to the upcoming camps:
“There are some potential names that I’ve been following, but I would rather not give names because at this point they’re just prospects. I like following new guys because it keeps the group fresh and it keeps everybody on their toes. I’m excited about bringing Desevio along and seeing how he can do. I know he’s excited to come.”
On the status of midfielders Kellyn Acosta and Emerson Hyndman who were injured in Jamaica:
“Kellyn is not ready to come with us yet. He’s been running and starting to practice, but he’s not ready for us yet. Emerson is ready to come which is great, especially since he’s in England.”
On keeping track of everyone in the player pool:
“There are always challenges for us at the U-20 level in terms of keeping up with players because not all of them play on a consistent basis. It’s easy sometimes when all players are playing in a first division and you can track them on weekends and see how many minutes they played and see their highlights. When you have our players, and most of them do not play on their club's first team, you have to find them playing on second teams, reserve teams or under-20 teams, so it’s a little bit more difficult. But, I've been doing this now for quite a few years so I've figured out a way to keep track of the guys.”
On if there are differences in selecting a roster for the CONCACAF Championships compared to the FIFA U-20 World Cup:
“There are some differences in terms of picking the team, because for the World Cup you know that all of the players will be available. For qualifying, you have to build a team that you know 100 percent is going to be available because you can’t take a chance on preparing a team for months and then not being able to count on a player at the last minute. I thought as a staff we did a good job with that. It was a nice surprise for us to get Emerson Hyndman to come with us, which we didn’t expect. So if you get a surprise like that, that’s a good thing. You want to be surprised in a good way and not a bad way. So if anything, we went with a player that made a big difference for us that we didn’t expect; that made us even better. Going into the World Cup we expect everyone to be there, and so our preparation will gear towards that.”
On getting the players early in advance of the World Cup:
“With player releases, it depends on how much the club can allow their player to come on board with us for some of the preparation. As we know, we never have them for too long, so basically we’ll be going to the World Cup maybe with seven to ten days of having a full team together, which will be difficult. But overall we have a good relationship with the clubs and work with them to figure out the best situation.”
On his conversations with U.S. Soccer Technical Director Jurgen Klinsmann about what players will be available for the U-20 World Cup:
“The plan is to mix and match players for the upcoming camps, but we do know that going into the summer, the U-20 World Cup becomes a priority. So going into June, the U-20 eligible players – even if they were to be called to the senior team – Jurgen has assured me that the U-20 World Cup is a priority until that’s over. From then on we’ll be moving players to the 23s and to the senior team.”