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 Ďwow, 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.