Tab Ramos knows Brandon Allen.
The U.S. national team legend surprisingly chose the Georgetown freshman forward last week for the under-20 U.S. men’s national team that will compete for the CONCACAF championship next week in Mexico with the aim of earning a spot in the under-20 FIFA World Cup.
“He’s a [New] Jersey kid so I’ve followed him for many years,” said Ramos, who wasn’t shocked to see Allen score 16 goals for the Hoyas and get named Soccer America freshman of the year.
The U.S. opens group play against Haiti on Feb. 18 and then faces Costa Rica on Feb. 22. The top team in the group advances to the semifinals on March 1, with the championship on March 3.
“He’s always been scoring goals,” Ramos continued. “I just felt like in a roster you can always find space for someone who can get you goals. Even though he’s practically new to our group because he’s only been involved with us for a month and a half, and only the last two camps, we really felt like he was a little bit different than the other guys, and someone that we felt that could give us something at different times that we needed.”
Allen’s rapid ascent from earning an invitation to training camp in December to making the final roster in February has altered his own plans. He’s withdrawn from Georgetown for the spring semester and is expected to return during the summer to help catch up on his studies.
“He’s excited, but he’s as about as stoic a kid as you’ll come across,” Hoyas coach Brian Wiese said. “You’ll get him to smile and say, ‘Sweet,’ when he’s super excited. Like a lot of kids in that group, he’s very confident in himself and what he can do.”
Allen, 19, scored 10 game-winning goals for the Hoyas en route to the national championship game, and Wiese expects him to be unfazed by the bigger international stage. The tighter the circumstances, the more Allen seems to thrive.
“That’s what he does,” Wiese said. “He’s got that better than anyone I’ve ever coached.”
In his first full-time U.S. coaching job, Ramos hopes to succeed where the under-20s failed in 2011 to qualify, one of a number of setbacks at the lower level for U.S. Soccer, which also saw the senior national team lose at Honduras in a World Cup qualifier last week.
“I don’t feel like we need to carry that responsibility for our players, more than anything else,” Ramos said. “I want to win every game I coach, and I certainly want this team to be successful. I think the team will be prepared to play the best they can play, and at the end of the day, we’ll see what happens.”