USA head coach Tab Ramos (pictured) has seen his team win two straight matches in the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship. (Photo: Mexsport)
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – The United States’ tide at the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship has taken a turn for the better.
And, for head coach Tab Ramos, that reversal of fortune could not have been timed better.
“We’re starting to gear up,” said the former U.S. national team standout after Sunday’s 2-0 win over host Jamaica, its second straight victory. “We believe we have two more games, but the last game will only depend on whether we win the next one.”
That “next one” is against Trinidad & Tobago (1-1-2, 4 points) on Wednesday with a place in the playoffs on the line. If the Americans can avoid a loss in their last Group A game at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, they will have one last chance to qualify for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup on Saturday. A win by the Caribbean champion will see it capture third place via the head-to-head tiebreaker route, eliminating the USA completely.
“We know them very well,” Ramos remarked about the Trinidadians. “We watched all their matches. Trinidad is a very good team. I think they’ve been very unfortunate in this group because I think they’re probably a team that, just like they are, they’re a team that should be fighting for that second or third spot. I like their team.”
The U.S. (2-1-1, 7 points) has done well to recover from a start that saw it draw against Guatemala (1-1) and lose to table-topping Panama (1-0), now finding itself in position to progress.
After picking up only one point from those games, Ramos’ side bounced back with an 8-0 win over Aruba, before overcoming Jamaica on a pair of penalty-kick conversions by Romain Gall, the tournament’s joint-top scorer with Mexico’s Hirving Lozano on five goals.
Gall’s emergence as a force has been a positive development and something that Ramos hoped would happen. The Columbus Crew SC midfielder started against Guatemala, but never saw the field against the Panamanians. His positive response to that personnel decision has pleased the U.S. manager.
“Sometimes you need to be shaken a little bit and I think that’s what happened with him,” signaled Ramos. “When he (Gall) found himself off the team against Panama, not playing in an important game, I think he wanted to get back to an important game. He did a good job against Aruba and earned a spot for tonight’s match and in a big game tonight he came up big.”
Against Aruba, Gall struck for a hat-trick and then turned in a convincing overall performance in the Jamaica encounter.
With Trinidad looming, though, Ramos will need all of his players to step up and be counted. He’s realistic about the task at hand.
“I think it’s going to be an incredibly difficult match for us, but that’s the way it goes,” the 48-year-old finished. “It’s going to be tough for both.”