United States under-20 men’s national team head coach Tab Ramos held a teleconference on Thursday afternoon to preview the upcoming U-20 CONCACAF Championship beginning on Friday in Costa Rica. The USA kick off their effort to qualify for the U-20 World Cup (this tournament doubles as qualification) against Panama on Saturday (3:30 p.m., UDN, Facebook Live).
The team arrived in Costa Rica on Saturday to begin final preparations for the tournament. However, a training camp in December held in the country will be the biggest help to acclimating the team to the unfamiliar environment. Ramos stated that the team held several camps and held scrimmages to evaluate players and keep them fit while the MLS and college seasons were inactive. He’s confident that they are well prepared to begin their journey.
While he didn’t concretely confirm it, he says that Jonathan Klinsmann “looks to be the starter” for this tournament after pulling ahead in the race with J.T. Marcinkowski. He praised Jurgen’s son for progressing really well recently, even earning training opportunities overseas.
A previous announcement made by Ramos when the roster was released is that Erik Palmer-Brown would be the captain. He mentioned that he’s been with the Sporting KC defender for around three years already and stated that he would help the team at centerback and defensive midfielder.
The team’s overall experience is an interesting point of concern with many younger players on the roster. However, he says that age isn’t a factor for his squad selection.
“Age has never really mattered to me. I’ve always tried to pick the best group I can pick,” Ramos said.
The former USMNT legend continued on to praise the team’s most prolific striker and the MLS fourth overall SuperDraft pick, Jeremy Ebobisse, saying that he’s improving all the time with his finishing and off-the-ball movement. He also mentioned Emmanuel Sabbi and Coy Craft as other options at the striker position.
While the confidence in the current group of players is high, Ramos did admit that having star players from Europe such as Weston McKinnie, Nick Taitague, Josh Perez, Gedion Zelalem, and Mukwelle Akale would’ve been a nice luxury to have.
The team’s first opponent, Panama, was a big topic of discussion for Ramos who mentioned that he considered them the best team in the 2015 tournament and that they’ll be fully concentrated on trying to win their first match so future doors to a possible final open up for them.