By FRANCO PANIZO
The Under-20 World Cup starts in just over two months, but that time crunch is not stopping U.S. head coach Tab Ramos from searching for more players capable of contributing to his squad.
Ramos named his roster for the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team’s latest camp in England on Sunday, and it included many of the same faces that successfully navigated through World Cup qualifying last month. Ramos also summoned a number of players who did not partake in qualifying but have been with the team before, as well as one newcomer in FC Groningen’s Desevio Payne.
A 19-year-old left back who was born in South Carolina and raised in the Netherlands, Payne has never before represented the U.S. at any level. Ramos, however, has included Payne in an effort to further gauge the talent in his pool of players ahead of the Americans’ first World Cup game on May 30.
Some observers might think it’s too late in the cycle to introduce someone new like Payne into the fold, but Ramos does not see it that way.
“It’s an opportunity to bring in one or two new players over the next couple months and see who’s doing well in their league,” Ramos said of the current camp in an interview with U.S. Soccer. “Desevio Payne has been doing well in Holland. He’s a player we’ve never seen before. He’s a starter now for Groningen in the first division.
“He’s going to be a new player on this roster, so as players pop up over the next couple months, we have to take a look because who is in good form is going to be really important for us.”
While Ramos is keeping an eye on a few other uncapped players ahead of starting play in Group A in New Zealand this summer, he did not disclose who they were.
“There are some potential names that I’ve been following, but I would rather not give names because at this point they’re just prospects,” said Ramos. “I like following new guys because it keeps the group fresh and it keeps everybody on their toes. I’m excited about bringing Desevio along and seeing how he can do. I know he’s excited to come.”
Ramos may still be figuring things out on the player personnel side, but he already has finalized the remainder of the U.S.’s preparation plans before their World Cup opener against Myanmar.
Following this camp in England, which features a friendly against the Three Lions’ Under-21 team, the U.S. will hold camps in Austria and Australia. The camp in Austria will run from April 18-26, and include matches against Qatar and Croatia.
“Those are two different types of teams, but I think are teams that will prepare us well for the World Cup,” said Ramos. “They are both high caliber teams, and I think they’re both gearing up as well. Then after that we head out to Australia in the middle of May for training in advance of going to New Zealand, so we have a pretty busy schedule.”
For Ramos, everything being done right now is with the World Cup in mind. While he might currently be preparing for the tournament without some of his top players due to injuries (Kellyn Acosta), club obligations (Matt Miazga), or call-ups to Jurgen Klinsmann’s senior U.S. side (Rubio Rubin), Ramos fully expects to have his strongest team possible this summer.
“The plan is to mix and match players for the upcoming camps, but we do know that going into the summer, the U-20 World Cup becomes a priority,” said Ramos. “Going into June, the U-20 eligible players – even if they were to be called to the senior team – Jurgen has assured me that the U-20 World Cup is a priority until that’s over. From then on we’ll be moving players to the 23s and to the senior team.”