BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, April 17, 2012
With the third US U-20 camp of 2012 coming to a close, head coach Tab Ramos is beginning to draw conclusions as to which players will be part of his team moving forward.

Ramos, 45, has now called into various camps over 60 players dating back to last November with a joint U-23/U-20 camp in Germany. World Cup qualifying is now less than a year away and Ramos will now shift from evaluating talent to building a team among his top players.

During the last U-20 cycle, Ramos inherited a list from former head coach Thomas Rongen that listed 300-400 players overseas with options to play for the United States.

Ramos has found the process of evaluating talent challenging but is satisfied with the progress he has made so far.

"It's not easy," Ramos told YA. "It's certainly an everyday challenge to get to the bottom of things. What you do when you're contacted about certain player you go through the proper channels. Fortunately I do have enough contacts worldwide to be able to find out about players before I have to bring them in."

To help him in the process, Ramos is frequently in contact with scouts both in the United States and around the club.

Ramos has indicated that he is in contact with US Soccer scouts in Mexico and Germany at least once week. He also frequently speaks with the domestic based scouts in United States who watch MLS and collegiate players.

Through this network he feels his is making progress in determining the talent that he has in his player pool this cycle.

"Rarely do we really miss on a player that we bring in and then we say ‘wow, this player cannot play at all,'" Ramos added. "We brought him in and it was a recommendation and it was a bad on. I think the longer I am in the job, the better I will get at it."

Ramos has been an assistant coach with previous U-20 teams and he does not want to draw any firm conclusions yet as to where he thinks this team stands in relation to previous teams.

"It's a little bit hard to compare only," Ramos explained. "The last cycle we failed to qualify and the perception was that it was not a very good team. The team we had last cycle was probably technically better than the team we had in the cycle before [which made it to the World Cup]."

"What I can tell you is that with this team in the talent we've seen so far has more talent than two cycles ago when we went to the World Cup," Ramos continued. "I am not yet ready to compare this team to the last cycle but in terms of talent, it's at least up there."

The current camp in Portland is missing a lot of top players who are expected to be part of the team. These players include Ipswich goalkeeper Cody Cropper, Birmingham defender Will Packwook, Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil, and the Liverpool duo of Villyan Bijev and Marc Pelosi.

One player that Ramos is looking forward to having in camp is Hertha Belin's central defender John Anthony Brooks who last May turned down an offer from Bayern Munich to sign a four year deal with Berlin.

"Brooks is a big part of the picture," Ramos said. "He wants to be part of the picture and I know he is committed. He will come in whenever the club will allow. I think he can be important for us."

Two players who are also rumored to be part of the team are West Ham's left back Danny Potts and Blackburn's right back Adam Henley.

Potts played last May for the US U-20 team in a friendly against France but has also seen interest from England's youth national teams. Ramos is pessimistic that Potts will be part of the US system oddly enough because of legal issues rather than loyalty issues.

Potts was born in England and his father, Steve Potts, was born in the United States but moved to England when he was a young child. It is unclear if Potts will ever be eligible to play for the US in a serious competition.

"Regarding Danny Potts, it is my understanding that the paperwork is not as easy as we thought it was going to be from the beginning," Ramos revealed. "So there is a very good chance that he absolutely cannot be part of this process in this cycle."

US Soccer further added that they do not believe that Danny Potts is eligible for US Citizenship since his father did not live in the US long enough to pass citizenship on to his foreign-born son.

"Based on the information we have now, we do not believe he is eligible for citizenship through family relation," US Soccer press officer Michael Kammarman added.

Regarding the Tennessee-born Adam Henley, Ramos is a bit more upbeat. Henley has been part of youth national teams for Wales and would need to file for a one-time switch to play for the United States. Earlier this year, Henley told the BBC he was uncertain of staying with Wales.

In addition to Wales, Henley is eligible for both the United States and England but he is in regular contact with his family in Tennessee. This season, he is the youngest player in the English Premier League at just 17 years old. He won't turn 18 until June.

Henley earned a lot of attention for standout performances this year season including a full 90 effort at Old Trafford in a 3-2 win over Manchester United on New Year's Eve and another full 90 effort on Boxing day in a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield. In that game, Henley's goal-line clearance in the 90th minute preserved the result for Blackburn.

Ramos doesn't know for certain if Henley will make the switch to play for the United States but he does know that US Soccer has been in contact with the rising star and he is hopeful to see him wear the jersey for the Stars and Stripes.

"I can tell you that we've made contact and that we are hopeful," Ramos said of Henley. "I can only say that at this point."

The US U-20s will next be in action on May 28th when they head to play a series of games in South America.
Thursday April 19, 2012 11:06 am
@ Cole Joseph . True Zlatan was born in Sweden of a Bosnian father and Croatian mother all with dual citizenship, at the age of 20 when Zlatan joined Ajax he was not being played at all for 6 months fortunately the coach was sacked and Ronald Koeman realized what a talent he was. At this point Zlatans father(this is a well known story in Europe told by his father in the media; contacted the Bosnian soccer federation and spoke with the National team coach on the phone; Zlatans father said;Ihave a 20 year old son who is very talented and is playing for Ajax Amsterdam 1st team under Ronald Koeman would you take a look at him because I would much prefer on having Zlatan play for Bosnia (and true,Sweden is going nowhere, but Bosnia with Zlatan would have had an incredible team )than play for the Swedish national team. The Bosnian National teams coachs' response was: " we have plenty of talent here; we don't need anybody else " How is that for arrogance; I just don't want the same thing to happen to a kid whom everyone that has seen him play say unanimously that he is incredible.
Cole Joseph
Wednesday April 18, 2012 8:11 pm
@2tone: thanks man sounds like a great prospect, I hope he pans out.
@Christian: Nothing personal but how do you know if a US coach has looked at him or not? If they know about him on "yanks-abroad" then the USMNT certainly knows about him. Also have you seen Terrence Boyd play? Watch his goals against El Salvador, they were pure class. He is definitely a natural striker and is considered a top prospect with Borussia Dortmund (one of the best teams in Europe). I'm sure Brkovic is a good player but guys like Boyd, Wooten, Agudelo, Ruelas, Bijev, Salgado, Sapong etc. all play in better leagues (the exception is Bijev who is on loan to a 2nd division team in Germany but he was signed by Liverpool so that tells you what he's capable of). Also Ibrahimovich was born and raised in Sweden.
Christian Gallus
Wednesday April 18, 2012 12:06 pm

I don't follow your logic: not one American coach in any top position has ever seen Danijal Brkovic (Dani) play but you already know that he can't break into the U-20 or USMNT; the kid just had a hat trick in a friendly. We've just been humiliated by two lowly teams in Olympic qualifying but you are telling me we a full of great talent. Except for Dempsey whom everyone used to say; well, he really is a midfielder I have never seen a natural US striker like lets say Ibrahimovich (Bosnian), Dzeko(Bosnian).

Christian Gallus
Wednesday April 18, 2012 10:44 am
@Cole Joseph-

Ruelas was apart of the last U-20 cycle. He was inexplicably left off of the U-20 roster for the 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Tournament. He was voted the best player at the 2010 Milk Cup and for the U.S. squad as well. Which lead him to training stints with Celtics first team over the winter of 2011. He was then apart of Santos Lagunas first team in the spring of 2011 and made a few first team appearances before the 2011 CONCACAF tournament. Sources said that Santos would not release Ruelas for the 2011 U-20 CONCACAF tournament. In which the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2011 U-20 WC. Some sorces later said that Rongen decided not to call him up( Glad he was fired.) Most US insiders projected Ruelas as a better prospect at Striker/FWD than Agudelo. He is on loan with Jaguares and is finally starting to break into their first team. If he can get his career going he definitely should be on Klinsmanns radar in a couple of years. He has good speed, he is 6'2", has a good shot, and good feet.
Cole Joseph
Tuesday April 17, 2012 11:12 pm
Well said 2tone. I think this team is going to be very good going forward. Hopefully they fare better than the U23.
I think we can all agree that fifa rankings mean nothing. There are 10 teams maybe more that are rated ahead of the US who would never beat them.
By the way what do you know about Ruelas? I keep hearing his name but I dont know anything about him...
Tuesday April 17, 2012 5:03 pm
@ Dave-.
Pelosi has played in various positions for Liverpools reserves before he was injured. He played like two games at LB, and rest of the time he has been played at LW, RW and even at CAM. He is a Winger, so that is where I put him at for the U.S. U-20's.

Adam Henley is right footed and has played both RB and LB for Blackburn in the reserves, and played LB for the senior team because of injuries. He has already stated that his perferred position is RB.

@ Christian Gallus-
First of all Bosnia at 27 is only two spots higher than the U.S. at 29 . Secondly, the U.S. U-20's have quite a few talented strikers. Bijev, Salgado, Keisewetter, Daniel Garcia, Jaime Villareal, Andrew Oliver amongst several more. Thirdly, Daniel Brkovic is already to old for the U-20's. Not only that he is not going to break into the USMNT either especially with Altidore, Boyd, Wooten, Agudelo, Ruelas, Corona, Sapong, Bunbury, McInerney, Taylor all being in his same age range already above him in the pecking order.
Tuesday April 17, 2012 3:18 pm
Henley plays LB for Blackburn...and Pelosi has been playing LB for Liverpools youth team (and received very encouraging reviews). I'm not as familiar with Ocegueda, and how he's doing in Mexico, but would be interesting to see who the best of the 3 is at Left Back.

In general this cycles U-20 team should be very interesting to watch. There are some talented players who are actually getting minutes with their clubs at the reserve & 1st team levels. Big question will be if we can actually get them released from their clubs in order to compete in the qualifications and tournament.
Christian Gallus
Tuesday April 17, 2012 12:13 pm
Recently a dual citizenship 20 year old American ( Danijal Brkovic ) Dani has been called up to play with the Bosnian U-21 National team; with Bosnia considerably higher in the world soccer rankings than the US shouldn't someone high in US soccer coaching take a look at this kid. Christian, Binghamton NY
Tuesday April 17, 2012 10:44 am
Good to hear they will be playing some meaningful games soon in South America. Any thoughts of the team going to the Milk Cup again? A Packwood/Anthony Brooks partnership at CB should be a good partnership. That would be awesome if Henley decides to play for the U.S. Henley at RB and Ocegueda at LB and you are looking at a very solid backline. Gil as the CAM, and Bijev/Keisewetter up top. Pelosi at LW, Nick Gaitan or Mikey Lopez at DCM. Andrew Oliver at RW.

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