NEW YORK -- Paxton Pomykal's reputation preceded him with the US youth national team. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos knew about his ability long before the 19-year-old showed up for a US U-20 camp and well before his breakout to start the season for FC Dallas.
This is the guy, Ramos was told by coaches at younger age levels. He's the best, you've got to see him play.
Before Pomykal could put his bag in any locker room used by the US U-20 team, Ramos had big expectations. Before Pomykal could even tie his laces in front of his U-20 coach, Ramos already wanted more.
"It’s no secret, Paxton has always been a great player," Ramos said at a media roundtable on Friday. "He came to the U-20s and, me being the negative Jersey guy we always are, I was like 'Okay, yeah, but I need more. There’s more there! Yeah you’re really good, but can you do more?’”
It's part of why Pomykal developed from a talented young player to a budding star with Dallas and the US U-20 national team, who are preparing for the U-20 World Cup in Poland later this month.
“I had that conversation with Paxton. … You can do everything, but I want you to win the games," Ramos said. "Make the plays that win the games. When you have the ball, I want you to dribble directly into the box to get defenders on their heels. Don’t control the ball and play sideways. Everything you do—make it forward. If you watch World Cup qualifying, he did a lot of that.”
At the 2018 U-20 Concacaf U-20 Championship, Pomykal was a vital member of Ramos' team that brought home the title over Mexico. He was one of two players to feature in all games, adding three goals and four assists.
If the United States play the way Ramos intends, with an emphasis on possession, then Pomykal's ability to make the plays to win games becomes all the more vital.
“The idea is always the same: We want to have the ball," Ramos said. "We’re going to the World Cup trying to figure out how we can break down Ukraine, break down Ghana, beat Qatar."
If that's how the United States are to be eliminated, well, so be it.
"If you guys know me a little bit, we’re not going to sit all the way back and countering," Ramos said. "It’s not something I’m comfortable with— it’s not something that fits our players. Our players want to attack, our players want to be aggressive. If it happens that we lose that way, then we lose that way. But we’re losing that way going after it.”