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Global May 09, 2015

Tab Ramos elaborates on U.S. U-20 MNT World Cup roster selection

(Via U.S. Soccer) – After announcing 20 of the players who will be on the roster for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team head coach Tab Ramos conducted a media conference call where he answered questions about the team and what lies ahead.

Opening Remarks:
“So first of all, welcome to everyone on the call. Thank you for being on. Obviously this is a culmination of a very strong year-and-a-half cycle in which we were able to see many talented players. I believe this is a good age group. Obviously we’re right at the end of it here and it’s been very difficult to make the final selections. When you go into making the final selections you want to start with selecting the very best players you have and then end the selection process with players that fit in a number of different ways, not only by coming in in different positions but also by helping the team in every other way. I’m very happy with the selections that we’ve made. I think this is a strong group and a group in which more than ever before we have players who are playing first-division and are getting a lot of minutes and I think from a physical standpoint this is probably a group that will be able to handle this better than groups we have in the past. I’m very excited about this group and looking forward to the challenges that we have ahead of us, which will be difficult.”

On whether he thinks Gedion Zelalem will be cleared in time for the tournament and if not who he will use in the last spot:
“The answer to that is that we’re leaving a little window here over the next few days in case something can be worked out. I don’t know the specifics of the paperwork obviously. We’ve seen Gedion play a little bit and we believe that he can help the team, so if we have a few more days available I think we might as well leave that window open in case that happens. If it doesn’t happen, we have Zach Pfeffer ready to go. I’ve already spoken to him and told him the situation and this is kind of where we are, so we are prepared to make that call as well.”

On if he sees this roster as being inexperienced defensively:
“I really don’t actually. I think defensively we have a number of different combinations that we can use. Matt Miazga is playing 90 minutes every week for New York Red Bulls. Desevio Payne has already debuted in the first division with FC Gronigen. You have the option of John Requejo who’s playing every week, although he’s playing with the U-20s in Tijuana he has also played in the cup with Tijuana’s first team. Shaq Moore is unattached right now but he has been training in Spain and playing games in Spain, so I feel comfortable about that. There’s also the ability of using Kellyn Acosta as an outside back, who has been playing and starting for FC Dallas the last few games. Cameron Carter-Vickers is our youngest player and yet he plays like a veteran, so I have no concerns there at all. I think we’re in good shape. I don’t think we’re an inexperienced defense by any means.”

On the process of players going from the U-20s to the U-23s to the senior team and how that path of progression is beneficial to players:
“One of the things we’ve been talking about over these last few years since Jurgen Klinsmann has taken over our program is the fact that we know that the integration of our National Teams is very important to us. So I think that the participation of a player with the U-20s and at the U-20 World Cup and being in U-20 camps prepares them to go to the first team a little bit better, not just because of the international experience and the international games and being able to play against players all over the world, but I think that the way we train, the way we prepare teams, the way we scout, those are all things that are very similar to what our first team does. So I feel that when a player leaves our U-20s and steps into the first team that they’re pretty well prepared for what they’re going to find. I think that’s a big help for us.”

On how Marco Delgado worked his way into the group after missing the qualifying games:
“Well Marky got hurt right before the qualifiers. We’ve always considered him a very good player and one who can help us a lot. He has been in good form as of late. He played 90 minutes last night in a Canadian Cup game. He played 90 minutes in both games for us in our camp in Europe a few weeks back. He’s in good form right now and it’s a good moment for him.”

On what areas he is focusing on improving following the qualifying games and on how the selection of new players will fit into that:
“Yeah it’s a good question because in qualifying I have to say that I was very happy with the way that we played defensively. The team did very well in terms of limiting the opportunities of other teams. We were solid at the end of the tournament and I felt that we were probably the best team there. Defensively we didn’t give up much at all and we ended up with four shutouts in a row. I’m pretty confident that on that side of the field we’re going to do well. Where the changes have come that you see is going forward. Obviously we didn’t have Rubio Rubin there. We didn’t have the option to have Maki Tall there. Jordan Allen was injured and now he’s in great form. Bradford Jameison IV is in much better form now. He plays and starts for the LA Galaxy every game. There are a lot more options now and I feel confident in this team with what we can do on the other side of the ball because although at qualifiers we created chances and we had more shots that any team in qualifying we didn’t convert, and I think we need to be a lot more clinical and be able to put our chances away in the World Cup because certainly there’s not going to be as many chances as there were in qualifying.”

On if he has named a captain, and on Reading FC not releasing Andrija Novakovich:
“I have not named a captain yet. I’m going to do that with the team next week, so I’ll have to keep that to myself at this point until the team knows next week. As far as the release, I can tell you that Reading has done a great job with us over the years and in working with national teams and they’re very supportive of U.S. Soccer and our players coming up. An example is with Bobby Convey and the past and Danny Williams recently, so they do release their players. They just strongly felt that with Andrija this has been a very difficult year for him with the physicality of the Championship and being on their team. They consider him a very important part of next year’s group and their preseason which starts in June, and they felt like at this point he’s going to need the rest. I can’t argue with that. As the U-20 MNT head coach above and beyond anything else obviously results are very important – but also what’s important is that we advance players to our first team. So if that’s what’s best for Andrija at this point and that’s what everybody feels is best for him then I support that as well and hopefully we have Andrija ready, whether it’s for the Olympics or the senior team, down the road.”

On the strengths and weaknesses of Shaq Moore, where he’s been training, and what he’ll bring to the team:
“Shaq Moore is training with team Huracán, which is in the third division in Spain. I’ve spoken with their club director quite a few times because I wanted to make sure he was getting playing time. When Shaq comes with us he’s always physically in great shape. He brings a lot to the table for us in terms of covering space and getting up and down the line and making plays. He’s one that fits into the team really well. As far as strengths and weaknesses I can say he’s a player that’s very tactically knowledgeable, like I said he gets up and down the line well. I think in terms of weaknesses, he can obviously improve with the ball on his feet. He’s a young player and he has time for that. I’ve been a fan of Shaq. As you know he’s played most of our games, and I think he’ll bring a lot to the table here as well.”

On what formation he expects the team will bring to New Zealand and on whether an addition of Gedion Zelalem would change the game plan:
“The thought right now is to be playing in a 4-4-2, so whether that becomes a 4-4-2 in a diamond or it becomes two with two more advanced or if that becomes more of a 4-4-1-1 I think we’ll see over the next week and a half. I think the important part at this point is that we have our best guys on the field. I think we have a pretty well compensated roster with players that can make a difference from all kinds of positions, so that will be it. I think Gedion would certainly add to the group, but it won’t necessarily change the way we play. I think that he will fit right in with what we do if he is the player who comes, and if he’s not the player who comes we know that Zach Pfeffer can do that as well.”

On Matt Miazga:
“Matt has advanced and done really well. I was discussing before in a previous interview that in September and October of last year we started to have doubts about his play, and in December we brought him in. He had not been playing last year. Last year he wasn’t getting a lot of minutes with the Red Bulls. In December, we put him through a fitness camp with us in Florida for all the MLS players that were not playing and then we took him to Honduras to play two games, in which he did well. Then we took him to qualifying where as a starter he did well throughout. I thought as the tournament went on he got better and better, and I think that benefitted Matt going into the Red Bulls preseason. He had already played eight 90-minute games when he went into the preseason and I think that helped him a lot and it showed early in the preseason. Not to take anything away from Jesse and everything they do with the Red Bulls, they’re doing a great job, but I think Matt had a great base to start and I think now that he’s playing 90 minutes with the Red Bulls it shows how much improvement he’s making. As far as his confidence in play, it’s like any player: the more confidence the coach has in you, the more confidence you have in yourself, and I think Matt is reflecting that on the field now and continuing to get better and better. I’m very excited where Matt is right now, but more excited for down the road for our program.”

On if he’s confident that he’ll be able to retain the players that have been released, or if teams might change their minds:
“For the most part that never happens. When a team releases a player they rarely change their mind.The ones who could potentially change their minds at this point are MLS clubs, and MLS clubs are very supportive of what we do in our program so that’s not going to happen.

On how much Romain Gall’s knee injury factored into him being left off the roster:
“A lot actually, because we’ve been fortunate enough with the National Team now that as far as our attacking options we can select whatever players are in best form in that particular moment.  This is a message that we’ve given our youth players all along. Fortunately for us we’ve got a lot of players that are getting a lot of minutes and players who are doing well. Unfortunately Romain was out for a while and ame into our last camp and he’s not in great form. Although he scored a goal and we were happy with what we saw, it was just a matter of selecting one player or another and I think when we looked at our roster and what we needed with what we had, we had to go in another direction. This is not to say that Romain is not going to be in great form in another month or month in a half, and will hopefully break into the Crew’s first team and be great and make our Olympic team down the road. Hopefully that’s the case.  At the moment he was not in his best form and we had to make another selection.”

On Desevio Payne:
“So earlier when we were discussing all of the different ways we pick our teams and follow our players because it’s very difficult since we have players all over the world, our process begins with a depth chart that comes from the U-18 National Team of 60 to 70 players and that includes the best players in every position. We follow those. At the same time we follow players that are constantly moving to Europe and start to play, and then we follow some tips and leadsabout American players that are playing oversees and we track them as well. Desevio was one of those that just popped up a couple of months ago as someone that had broken into the lineup of a first team. I called him  to see what his interest would be in playing for the National Team and he was really excited about it, and that let us know that it would definitely be a player that we would follow through with. He came into the camp very excited to show what he could do, did very well to be honest, and I think he’s someone that we just happened to find at the end who’s doing very well and a good player who’s going to make our team better.”

On if this is the deepest team that there’s ever been for the U.S. U-20 level and on what the expectations should be going forward:
“The answer to your first question is I’m not sure because I don’t have all of the stats in front of me, but it’s probably the most professional team in the last two or three cycles. As far as the expectations, were always hoping that were getting better so we expect that. Our expectations for ourselves are always higher and higher so it’s normal that others people’s expectations are higher as well. In the end, you always depend on results,and sometimes results come your way and sometime they don’t. But I think there’s no reason not to have higher expectations higher that we’ve had in the past. We welcome that. Just like we welcomed going to qualifying, where I mentioned to the team we were going to the CONCACAF Tournament and our main goal is not to qualify for the World Cup but to be CONCACAF Champions because no other U-20 team had done that before. Unfortunately we didn’t accomplish our goal. In this case obviously we’re going to the World Cup and we hope to win every game, but in order to do that we have to win the first game and that’s a difficult challenge but we’ll get through it one at a time.”

On how Tommy Thompson fits in the 4-4-2 formation:
“Tommy Thompson can fit into a number of different positions. If you’ve seen him play in the midfield he finds space all over the field, so he can play wide on either side of a 4-4-2 and he could also play in front in either of the two forward positions as a more advanced or as a secondary forward.”

On if he sees Tommy Thompson coming on in the starting XI or off the bench?
“Over the next few weeks I think that will sort itself out. I’m hoping that every player that is coming in is thinking that they’re going to be in the starting XI and we want to keep it like that. We want to keep it competitive and keep the team as competitive as possible until then. Every player I’ve selected I’m hoping tcan compete for a spot at this point.”

On tactical formations:
“A 4-3-3 is a great system. If I had to select that would probably be my favorite one. But the system always depends on the players that you have. You need to have two very good wingers who are good one-on-one wide to be able to play a 4-3-3 system, and at the same time you need to have a No.  6 who can cover a lot of ground by himself in the middle of the field. It’s not an easy system to play; it depends on the players sometimes. By no means am I scratching that as something that we won’t do in this World Cup based on our opponents. There will be situations in which we will go into a 4-3-3 because that we will be better for us. In terms of development, I like to see the younger teams play in a 4-3-3 because it’s very position specific and it’s very easy to describe a position to a player and it’s very easy for a player to advance and get better in any one particular position. I like it. The 4-3-3 is a great system to play.”

On the reasons why Cristian Roldan did not make the squad:
“I think he was in a very competitive group of players that I had to select from. Roldan came into a group of Emerson Hyndman, Joel Sonora, Junior Flores, Zach Pfeffer and those types of guys who are a little bit more creative in the midfield and can hold possession.  I had a very tough choice. I think the selection process was very difficult in that particular position because we had a lot of options. Could Roldan potentially do the job for us in the World Cup? Absolutely yes. He’s a good player. So is Junior Flores. These are all good players, but in the end I couldn’t select too many players that play the same position. Those guys were left on the outside looking in, but it’s by a very small margin. These are all very good players we’re talking about.”

On Erik Palmer-Brown being one of the younger players on the team and what he did to earn his spot on the roster:
“He played really well in the last game we had against Croatia. We gave him the 90 minutes and he came in and really showed that defensively he can lock things up. I don’t want to take too much just from friendlies leading up, but I don’t think we gave a shot on goal to Croatia the whole game. That’s very positive, and that was Carter-Vickers and Palmer Brown playing central defense. They’re both 97-born players so they’re both next-cycle eligible. They did a pretty good job together. I liked what I saw. At this point that’s all I needed to see because I know the type of player that he is. I think at the same time this tournament will be a great experience for him leading into the next U-20 cycle.”

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