U-20s: Ramos wastes no time in turning focus to quarters

US U-20 coaching staff Tab Ramos, Brian Bliss

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PUEBLA, Mexico – Six points from two games in the U-20 CONCACAF Championship was the perfect record Tab Ramos was hoping for, but now it is all about next Tuesday’s quarterfinal clash with a ticket to the World Cup on the line.

“The team is getting better bit-by-bit but all the work we have done so far is for Tuesday,” said the US coach in the postgame press conference after Friday’s 1-0 victory over Costa Rica.

Ramos was encouraged by the performance against the Ticos, even though the game was a largely closed affair with chances at a minimum for both sides.

“In spite of only needing a draw to be in first place, I think the team showed it wanted to go for the win,” Ramos said. “We knew we were playing a very difficult football team. I thought we had the game under control the whole time and I’m happy about that.”

There were four changes from Monday’s game against Haiti, with star performer Daniel Cuevas surprisingly left on the bench.

READ: U-20s: US Soccer president Gulati says U-20 success crucial, but "not the only barometer"

Ramos explained that the Santos Laguna player was saved after taking some knocks in that first game, but would likely have got minutes if the match had been in the balance.

“I think he’s in good form,” Ramos said. “He’s somebody we can select for the last game, if we choose.”

Ramos also elected to play LA Galaxy forward Jose Villarreal played as the lone center forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Benji Joya on the right wing and Danny Garcia on the left. The former US international declared himself satisfied with the versatility of his forward line and the options he has at his disposal.

"In terms of Villarreal playing the 9 role, I think we have versatile players who can play different positions and I think today that they switched position and I thought they did a nice job," he explained.

The Uruguay-born coach was, however, surprised the game got a little heated towards the end, with both teams already qualified, but wasn’t unhappy with the discipline his players showed.

“I think when we took a couple of hard fouls there were a couple of teammates that were sticking up for our own guys," he said, "but I think overall, we controlled ourselves pretty well."

Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at tom.marshall.mex@gmail.com.