When it comes to the USMNT and soccer in the United States Tab Ramos is a major voice, the three-time World Cup veteran played 81 times for the USMNT and scored 8 goals. Ramos is considered by many to be one of, if not the most, gifted American soccer player of all-time.
Ramos is currently coaching Hartford Athletic in the USL after stops in Major League Soccer with the Houston Dynamo and working as an assistant with Jürgen Klinsmann during the 2014 World Cup. Ramos is also one of the most accomplished youth coaches the US Soccer program has ever had, having worked with many of the players with the USMNT at the 2022 World Cup.
In our sit down with Tab Ramos, the American legend goes over the USMNT’s World Cup, the Gio Reyna situation, his work on Telemundo covering the tournament, and his views on his native Uruguay’s performance at the tournament.
Bolavip: The 2022 World Cup for the USMNT is in the books, what were your three biggest takeaways from the team?
Tab Ramos: I think the number one takeaway is I feel the three players we have in the middle (Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, and Weston McKennie) are able to compete with any other three midfielders in the world really. I think that was huge, can they get into the box better? You can always find faults but when you take all three of them, I think they're pretty competitive guys.
I think if we had more effectiveness up front and had we been a little bit better at the back, I think those guys can be really on any team. In terms of other takeaways, you can’t not acknowledge the fact that after three years of preparation and after barely qualifying for the World Cup, basically tied for third/fourth place, you can’t avoid to not think, why didn’t we have our center back position and our number nine position pretty secure? That should be something with all that preparation time that should have been taken care of, I don’t feel that those positions should be up in the air. That’s a takeaway, some people could take it the right way or the wrong way, but that’s a takeaway.
Lastly, the fact that there is a distance between us and the top nations. We’re at a point where we are starting to separate ourselves from the middle to bottom of CONCACAF, of course, we have very good players playing on very important teams overseas… but there is still that distance when you watch the eight or ten best teams in the world. We still have a lot of room to grow.
BV: Were you shocked or taken back positively by how the team played at the World Cup considering many of the issues the team had prior?
TR: Well, it was not so much how we were playing in qualifying, that was a little while back, I think what was more shocking was the level of the team in September before the World Cup. Because we lost to Japan a 2-0 game that could have ended 5-0, and tied Saudi Arabia in a game that could have gone either way, that one (game) we would have hoped the team response would have been “this was the last one before the World Cup, we’ve got to be all in on it.”
So, I was not shocked with the performance at the World Cup, the reason being over the last 30 years as a country we always do better when we are not expected to do well. We always play best against teams we are not supposed to beat, and we always struggle after we have a great result or a great game. I thought the World Cup as a whole was good. We had a solid first half against Wales, the complete game against England was a good game, I thought that was most likely England’s worst game, but we made that happen too so full credit to the team for an excellent game against England.
Against Iran it was a scrappy game really, it could have gone either way, we take the win in that game, and against the Netherlands we were overmatched from beginning to end. The energy wasn’t there, and we had just come from beating Iran and that could have been a factor. The Dutch were on a different mission, (USMNT) was just another game to get to the next game and for us it was more of a destination (the round of 16). I thought the game against the Netherlands wasn’t a good one for us. Tactically we struggled and physically we struggled.
BV: It may sound strange this question, given the results at World Cups the USMNT has had before, but style wise, was the game against England our best World Cup game in the modern era?
TR: Well, here’s the thing am old (laughs), so I have seen a lot of games. So when I look back, I think of the 2014 World Cup, think about how good that Portugal team was, that we tied 2-2, they ended up tying in the 92nd minute off of the Cristiano Ronaldo cross… A game we basically had won, but ended up drawing, that was a great performance by our team given the talent that Portugal team had… So, do you look at any of the 2022 games and go “have we done any of this before?”, not really, again the England game was a great game a great team performance, but did it set a standard? I really don’t think by any means we set a standard on that day.
BV: Who do you think their stock really rose for the USMNT at the World Cup, who stood out the most?
TR: Tyler Adams stock rose there is no question, although I don’t consider Tyler an under the radar player. Tim Ream he’s been a starting defender in the Premier League and captain for some time now and his stock rose. Although I don’t know how much the stock could rise for a guy who is getting older as time goes on, but I thought Ream had a great World Cup.
After that someone who may have surprised some people, not me, is Tim Weah, there is a lot more in the tank with Tim Weah. He has incredible timing on his runs, better than any player I saw coming through our program, he has great speed and finishing ability, those three guys to me were above everyone else.
I also thought Yunus Musah did well, Weston McKennie had a good World Cup, Christian Pulisic had a better World Cup than I think most of us expected.
BV: Moving to the bench, Gregg Berhalter’s contract is almost up with the USSF, do you think expectations were met? Does the program need a new coach to lead for 2026?
TR: It’s a tough question, because you really have to think, “Are we going in the right direction”? If you take the parts of the World Cup that we did well, was that because of coaching that we did well or was it because we have good players? There is no question that the players we have now have more experience in terms of playing big games and playing for big clubs than we ever had before. One would expect that we’d do better.
I really don’t know what will happen with Gregg Berhalter, what am pretty certain is that it’s unlikely that he’d be coaching the 2026 World Cup. So, they keep him for the time being, it’s difficult to go eight straight years with the team. If he stays it would be for a certain amount of time, I could see US Soccer going, “Now we have to go to the World Cup, now we need to take it up a notch” I could see that happening and make a change.
BV: But should the federation or any federation try and get a coach now? Given the coaches that are out in the market right now and that two years down the road that pool of available qualified coaches dwindles considerably?
TR: Well look, I could have a lot of opinions about this, but the bottom line is have you heard Cindy Parlow Cone say anything about this? She’s the president of the federation, am not sure I have heard her speak about the men’s national team. I don’t think she has said anything. I don’t think I even heard her name while I was at the World Cup in Qatar.
Where is Earnie Stewart, shouldn’t he be saying something? Shouldn’t he be answering some of these questions? What direction are we going? I don’t hear anything coming (from the federation). That was kind of the same thing that happened when Berhalter got hired. No one hears anything and then something happens. I want to hear the president of the federation say something and you don’t hear it, unless it’s about a lawsuit, you don’t really hear anything.
BV: The whole situation with Gio Reyna, has something like that ever happened to you before, where, reportedly, a coach from the start says, “you’re playing time will be limited”?
TR: The only time it happened to me was at the end of my career, going towards the 2002 World Cup, we were in qualifying and Bruce Arena he was having me come off the bench, I was 34/35, I talked to him and told him “I have a family at home and we travel a lot in qualifying, I just don’t feel am a player to come off the bench”, some veteran guys are great coming off the bench or being team cheerleaders, and I felt I wasn’t that guy, I wasn’t the cheerleader guy in the locker room if I wasn’t playing.
So, I asked Bruce about it and Bruce said, I see you as “this type of player this is where you are at right now”, and I totally understood, and I helped the team complete that first round of qualifying before the hex and I told Bruce that I was going to retire...
In the case of Gio Reyna, am not sure what conversations he has had with Gregg Berhalter, I really don’t, I didn’t speak to the coaching staff or the player, it’s all speculation. I don’t know what the true story is, but I really don’t put any weight on this. Every coach wants to win games and every coach is going to put the guys he feels are going to help him win the game. If you're not in the game, I don’t think that’s the coach’s fault, otherwise you have to change the coach.
If you believe in what the coach is doing and he picks the players and you're not on the field, that’s a player’s problem not the coach’s. The coach wants to win the game, if you're doing something that can jeopardize the team from winning games and being the best it can be, the coach is not going to pick you.
BV: Then doesn’t Gregg Berhalter shoot himself in the foot kind of with what was mentioned at the leadership conference?
TR: What I would say about that is what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. That’s that. In terms of Gregg Berhalter when he took over, he went to the MLS headquarters and he was there designing how the team was going to play, how the right back was always going to tuck inside and all these things. Sometimes you can talk too much. You can have all the systems you want but you depend on your players, you have to adjust whatever your system is to the players you have.
So, it’s not so much about you and your system, it’s about the players and how you can get the most out of them. So, it surprised me when this came out only because of that, why are you even saying anything at all. The World Cup is over, and in terms of Gio he is a young player, has tons of talent, and yes of course he has been inconsistent due to his injuries, barely played for the team in a year in a half, so when Gio goes to the World Cup and he doesn’t play of course he’s going to be unhappy, or do something that may be out of character, but at the end of the day he’s a 20-year-old kid, if you don’t want to play him, you don’t play him… I don’t blame Gio Reyna, he finds himself with something out there that shouldn’t be out there, and he has to defend himself a little bit.
Tab Ramos on his World Cup coverage experience with Telemundo
BV: You were in the booth calling the World Cup with Telemundo, how was it like calling games? Do you like doing it in Spanish or English better?
TR: I loved it! It was an amazing experience, I love doing it more in Spanish than in English, I just feel better doing it in Spanish, it’s more natural, it feels almost that soccer has to be in Spanish (laughs). I felt totally at home and very thankful to the people at Telemundo, I got to work with Diego Forlan, who’s a great guy and Claudio Borghi, World Cup winner with Argentina, and “Loco” Abreu was there, Mauro Silva, so many great soccer personalities and I was in awe at the humility these soccer legends have.
BV: How was it like working with El Loco Sebastián Abreu, he’s a person tailor made for television isn’t he?
TR: El loco is a great guy (Laughs)!
BV: You come from a Uruguayan background, what went wrong with Uruguay at the World Cup?
TR: Uruguay had a good team. I am disappointed because it was like a diesel engine, it only did enough to keep the gas going. They only pushed when they needed to and found themselves without time. Against South Korea they did enough to stay in the game and had some chances and said, “we’ll get points later”, against Portugal when they were losing the game, they played the best they played the whole World Cup, they were attacking, creating chances, and then unfortunately they took that late penalty and lost 2-0.
Against Ghana, they take a 2-0 lead… then they hit the brakes and said, “okay good we’re finished, it’s done” and then you realize there is a score in the other game that you should have been planning for, because potentially it could happen, and you didn't plan for it and end up looking to win the game creating half chances. It’s disappointing because I think this is a good Uruguay team and am hopeful with Ronald Araújo, José Giménez who is going to be suspended for who knows how long at the back, Federico Valverde, Rodrigo Bentancur, Mathias Vecino in the midfield there is a good talent going forward.
The big question is if Darwin Núñez is ready to replace Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani, those are big shoes to fill. The rest of the team am hopeful for Uruguayan soccer, there are some really good players there.
BV: What do you think about the World Cup for Messi and Argentina?
TR: Things fell into place for Argentina, they played their two best games of the tournament right at the end. They played well against Croatia, and they played a great game against France, at the end of the day if you get six penalties called in your favor things can be a little easier because they do open up games.
Argentina opened up every game with a penalty kick I think, and that makes things a bit easier am not taking away that Argentina won the World Cup, or Messi being potentially the greatest soccer player of all-time, look at the age when all the other top guys won the World Cup, they were considerably younger. Messi wins it at 35, with a team, to be honest, on paper was not the best version of Argentina.
You have to give Argentina all the credit they won the World Cup, but Messi put the team on his back and while Julián Álvarez and Alexis Mac Allister had great tournaments, they grew into the tournament, it was Messi there again leading Argentina. Messi is just an amazing player…