It hasn't taken long for the youth revolution to kick off in Houston under new Dynamo head coach Tab Ramos.
The former United States U-20 national team coach, and founder of a soccer academy in New Jersey back in 2004, was expected to inject his new club with a fresh emphasis on young players. After all, rivals FC Dallas have shown the Texas soccer scene is rich with talent that can make it to MLS and top clubs in Europe, too.
Houston have signed five players aged 20 or younger under Ramos, the latest of which is 18-year-old US youth international Ian Hoffmann. What's different about Hoffmann is that he's not from Texas or neighboring states, nor was he currently in the United States. The versatile fullback/winger was playing in the academy of 2. Bundesliga club Karlsruher SC.
So, why did a young prospect swap Germany for the Dynamo? Well, that's the Tab Ramos effect.
“I felt it was something I couldn’t refuse due to the coaching staff, this is the best place for me to develop," Hoffmann told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday.
Hoffmann also played under Houston assistant Omid Namazi at the youth national team. The 18-year-old said that he had kept in touch with Ramos and Namazi even after both went to Houston. Then, with Hoffmann's contract with Karlsruher set to expire soon, they reached out.
Ian Hoffmann with the US youth national team | Courtesy US Soccer
It didn't take long for player and club to reach an agreement.
“When Tab and Omid knew of my pending free agency, they pounced on it right away," Hoffmann said. "And when we heard they were interested, we jumped on it right away as well. It’s cool that we had that mutual interest. ... I wanted to go somewhere that I felt wanted, as a young player I think that’s important."
Hoffmann was quick to point out he didn't feel unwanted in Germany. He had interest from other clubs while Karlsruher were discussing a new contract to keep him, but with clubs still reeling from the financial downturns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing was finalized or officially offered.
His MLS contract doesn't officially kick in until January 1, 2021. The plan for now is to come to Houston, train with the first team to get up to speed by way of fitness and sharpness. When he's ready, he'll head to Houston's USL Championship affiliate Rio Grande Valley to spend the remained of 2020.
Next season, Hoffmann is intent on proving his worth and earning minutes in the first team. He knows they won't be handed to him.
“Just because players have been with the youth national team in the past, doesn’t mean they can go somewhere and play right away," Hoffmann said. "I know I have to work hard every single day and produce results. I need to show I’m at that level.
“I have a good feeling that Tab trusts young players, maybe a little more than other MLS coaches due to his past, but in the end it comes down to us and how we perform," he continued. "Day in, day out, proving I should be there. I’m excited to start doing that.”