Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
Head coach Tab Ramos and the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team begin the Toulon Tournament on Tuesday afternoon with a match against France (1:30pm, BeIN Sport).
The annual summer tournament is being used as a final test for the coaching staff to finalize their squad ahead of the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey that starts on June 21. Major League Soccer players who get regular minutes for their clubs haven’t been included in the Toulon squad, meaning that there will be a number of players all fighting for the last few spots open on the 21-man roster for the World Cup.
“We want to give all the players an opportunity to play,” Ramos told USSoccer.com. “At no time are we going to have what we think the best starting eleven would be at any particular game. We’re going to be rotating guys. We’re going to be giving players opportunities to play, some of them in different positions they’re not accustomed to.”
Ramos made clear that versatility is important, and players that can play multiple positions will have a better shot at making the final squad in Turkey.
One of the things that’s really important about this tournament for us is when we select our final roster, we have to select the top 13 or 14 players that we have,” Ramos said. “And then there’s a group of about five or six players that we have to select according to how many positions they can play.
“Obviously we’re not going to have two players per position at the World Cup, so we’re going to need guys who are going to be pretty versatile in terms of being able to change and play different positions.”
Though there are players absent, there are still a number of regulars that will feature plenty in the two-week tournament in southern France, including Caleb Stanko, Benji Joya, Shane O’Neill, and Dillon Serna. At the same time, there are also a few new faces in the camp, including Alonso Hernandez of Monterrey and former Galaxy academy product Jeffrey Payeras, currently at Municipal of Guatemala.
“Guys are buying into what we do, and at the same time they’re confident with their abilities,” Ramos said. “We have given them all that confidence for the past year and a half, but I think for them it’s difficult to trust themselves until they get results. But I think now we have players with a lot of confidence and I think that’s very important for us.”
Following the match against France, the U.S. plays Colombia on Thursday, DR Congo on Saturday, and South Korea on June 5 to round out the matches in Group A.