HOUSTON – From the wide pool of domestic and international applicants vying to become head coach of the Houston Dynamo, one man dived that bit deeper than the rest.
“Eighty candidates – they want a job. What really stood out about Tab is that he wants this job, this challenge, to work in this city, and that really resonated with us,” said Dynamo general manager Matt Jordan as Tab Ramos was formally unveiled to media on Wednesday at BBVA Stadium, nearly two weeks after he was announced as Wilmer Cabrera’s replacement.
“He’s eager for this moment with this club. That’s what’s really important,” Jordan added.
As moments go, it figures to be a challenging one after the Dynamo ended 2019 in tenth place in the Western Conference. Ramos’s twin tasks: return Houston to the playoffs and bring through youth players.
Oh, and add another: get to know his charges, face to face. “The difficult part is being named coach at a time when the team’s not around,” he said.
That’s one reason why the 53-year-old was circumspect when asked to flesh out his plans. Based on his praise of the roster, he doesn’t necessarily think a radical overhaul is required — but with the futures of forwards Mauro Manotas, Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis a regular subject for the rumor mill, time will tell whether he will tinker with the side or transform it.
When quizzed, Ramos name-checked the veteran Spanish manager Xabier Azkargorta. “One of the things he said to me is, ‘Whenever anyone asks a question about soccer, you can always answer the question as: it depends’. Because it truly depends.
“I know that I have some clear ideas, I also know there are some challenges in the league in terms of rules and regulations that you have to follow and players that you have, so there’s a lot to cover still and I’m getting just my feet wet over the last couple of weeks so there’s a lot of work to do over the next month and a half to be able to answer your question,” he said.
When the future is uncertain, history is often a useful guide. Based on the evidence of Ramos’ eight years as the head coach of the US under-20 men’s national team, in which he led them to four successive U-20 World Cup appearances, he is likely to adopt a possession-based approach.
That’s something that Cabrera tried to forge, with only limited success, in the past two years after opponents wised up to the direct counter-attacking style that suited the team’s pacy wingers and carried Houston to the Western Conference Championship in 2017, Cabrera’s first season at the club.
“I’m very clear about the ideas I have moving forward in terms of the style,” Ramos said. “We want that aggressive, winning – not dirty, obviously, but just aggressive demeanor in terms of winning. Everything that we do from the moment we step out on the field for training is about winning, whether that’s a small 1-v-1 exercise or a 4-v-4, I want the players to know that that’s who we are.”
Ramos was linked with a number of MLS jobs in the recent past, including FC Cincinnati, who ultimately hired Ron Jans in August.
“In particular the first six years that I was at U.S. Soccer I wasn’t really looking to go anywhere, I was really excited about what I was building there,” he said.
“Really over the last year-and-a-half is when I started to think a little bit more about, maybe it’s time to make the jump. I felt like a lot had already been accomplished at the youth national teams and I felt like a new challenge, so I really felt like I wanted to be selective over the last 18 months as far as I where I wanted to go. It all had to start at a place where I felt like the players matched what I wanted to do to start with, and that’s why I felt Houston was the right place.”