USA U20 head coach Tab Ramos (left) during a walk through at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibas, San Jose, Costa Rica, on February 17, 2017. (Photo: Victor Straffon/Straffon Images)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – United States head coach Tab Ramos believes it is a good sign that he’s nervous ahead of the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.
The Americans will take on Panama in their Group B opener on Saturday at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa.
"What keeps me going is that I still feel a little bit nervous for our first game," said Ramos. "I know how difficult that is and that tells me that if I’m nervous, chances are we are well prepared.
“Our team will be much better prepared than we’ve been in the past. What matters is how the team shows on the field. I’m sure that we’ll start the tournament on a positive note."
Ramos expects a difficult game against Panama, which he felt was the best team in the 2015 CONCACAF competition. The Canaleros fell to Mexico in the final on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw.
"We have a tough one to start," the former U.S. national team star commented. "I’m not sure if they’re the best ones this time, but I know with the group they had the last time, this is going to be a very tough team for us to start the tournament with."
Earning three points in the opener is vital in a three-game group. Ramos told his squad "that we’re not going to get to the final here if we don’t win the first final."
The Americans meet Haiti on February 21 and Saint Kitts and Nevis on February 24. The top two teams from each of the three groups advance to the classification stage, which will determine the four teams that will represent CONCACAF at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
As for his starter at goalkeeper, Ramos gave an edge to Jonathan Klinsmann -- the son of former U.S. national head coach Jurgen Klinsmann -- over J.T. Marcinkowski as the starting goalkeeper.
"Jonathan is really coming along well," concluded Ramos. "He’s had some training opportunities in Europe, some training on the side not just with the University of California, so he’s been doing a lot of homework. Both goalkeepers look really good, but I think Jonathan will be our starter starting Saturday.”