USA's Erik Palmer-Brown (white jersey) earned Golden Ball honors at the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship. (Photo: Straffon Images)
INCHOEN, Korea -- With the stakes higher at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, United States head coach Tab Ramos realizes his team has little room for error.
The competition is so fierce that one missed tackle or a poor clearance could mean the difference from reaching the knockout round or getting an early elimination.
"In this tournament you have to be at your best from the first minute, otherwise it is very difficult to recover," he said. "Any team here can beat you.”
For the first-ever time, the U.S. enters the competition as the CONCACAF champion.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the team responds to that,” remarked Ramos. “Normally, we like to play the underdog role and, in this case, we remain underdogs.”
The Americans kick off Group F play against Ecuador here Monday, before facing Senegal (May 25) and Saudi Arabia (May 28). The top two teams from each of the six groups qualify for the Round of 16, plus the four best third-place sides.
Ramos is confident in the roster and the possibility of advancing far into the competition.
"There is a wide range of skillsets on this team," the U.S. national team star commented. "This group can cause a lot of problems for opponents with its ability in transition, with the ball and without it.”
The team includes goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann (son of former U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann), midfielder Erik Palmer-Brown (2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship Golden Ball winner), and forward Brooks Lennon, Liverpool loanee with one goal in eight games for Real Salt Lake this season. A surprise addition was forward Josh Sargent, a member of the Best XI team at the recently completed CONCACAF Under-17 Championship.