One of the more intriguing stories of the upcoming MLS season will be the debut of Tab Ramos as coach of the Houston Dynamo. The Hall of Famer earned his MLS head coaching job after eight years as boss of the U.S. U-20 men’s national team, which he led to the quarterfinals of the last three U-20 World Cups.
The potential is there for Houston to take a youthful turn although Ramos has said that such a change will take time. But the Dynamo recently made its first significant approach in this direction when it signed Marcelo Palomino to a Homegrown contract shortly after the new year.
Palomino, 18, had been exploring opportunities overseas but Ramos taking the job in November played a role in changing his mind.
“So, I was overseas a couple of times, on trials and get some training in,” Palomino said. “When I first spoke to Tab about the opportunity, I thought about it. And it wasn't such a hard decision with him being the coach and with Houston being my hometown city and the Dynamo being the club I dreamed of playing for so many years. That made it a good opportunity for me.”
Ramos and Palomino have worked together before. Back in February, Ramos was in charge of a U-18 camp and Palomino was on the roster. Then in September, Ramos coached his final U-20 camp to kick off the 2021 cycle and Palomino once again played well while featuring in various attacking midfield positions – including his preferred No. 10 role.
So in addition to playing for his hometown team, Palomino felt a comfort level with Ramos that made the opportunity too good to pass up. For him, there is a chance to develop in Houston and a belief that first-team minutes are possible.
“I've had a couple of camps with him and I feel confident enough playing under him,” Palomino explained. “He gives me that confidence and that's really important for any player and he's really good coach. And we've done well under him. I think we've won every game or almost every game that I've played under him. And I really like his philosophy and the way the way he likes to do things. I think he's a great coach and I'm excited to continue playing under him this year.”
Beyond Ramos, the Dynamo means a lot to Palomino. He has been with the organization since before he turned 10 and progressed through the club’s academy. But the Dynamo has struggled with player development when measured by the lack of academy players it has pushed into the first team and compared with the massive success FC Dallas has had in the state. Palomino will join Memo Rodriguez and Erik McCue as the third academy alum on the current first team roster.
Marcelo Palomino, flanked by Coach Tab Ramos (left) and GM Matt Jordan upon signing a Homegrown contract in early January.
For Palomino, his homegrown signing while also working with a coach who believes in him and has had success with young players makes him significant for the direction the organization wants to take – and if Houston, one of the biggest cities in the country, can improve with youth development, it could greatly benefit the league and U.S. youth national teams.
“I started coming into training camps with the Dynamo when I was about 9 years old,” Palomino said. “And I moved to the pre-academy when I was around 11. And I played there ever since. Obviously growing up and playing for them, it was always an honor and a privilege to be able to put on the jersey and wear orange. And that's what I dreamed of doing for the professional team ever since I ever since I got into the academy.”
“The preseason hasn't started and there are a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces from the last time I was there,” he added regarding playing time in his first year. “I am going to do my best and work hard and take advantage of any opportunity given to me and just keep working on it.”
While Ramos and his U-20 teams were big selling points for Palomino to come to the Dynamo, he’s currently with the U.S. U-20s in its first camp under Ramos’ successor, Anthony Hudson.
The current U-20 team is expected to be built heavily around the 2001-born players, which includes Palomino. And it will be a tough team for attacking midfielders to make because at the No. 10 playmaker position, key players will be Gio Reyna, Matko Miljevic, and Indiana Vassilev. Players contending for the No. 8, box-to-box midfielder role, include Cole Bassett and Thomas Roberts. The wings consist of Uly Llanez, Cam Harper, and Konrad de la Fuente.
But Palomino’s work ethic has been a strength of his so far in his career and he looks forward to the challenge – both in terms of making the U-20 roster for qualifying this summer and helping to contribute to yet another successful cycle at the U-20 level. As the cycle kicks off, Palomino insists that he and his teammates are optimistic.
“I'm here right now at the camp and we're all excited,” Palomino said. “Well, really motivated. And like you said, coming off those three good cycles that we had in the past. Expectations are the same and higher from us, the players. And we want to do just as well, even better and always improve. And yet we're really motivated, really excited and ready to get going.”
Attacking mid? Will be very curious how this rolls out with Tab. As I recall, Tab used Zelalem, another smooth ballhandler, as a 6 and that led to a disasterous injury. The other downside is that he appears to be 5’7” and the Nats only accept players starting at 5’9”. Looking forward to a hopey changey 2020.
I know it preaching to the choir, but I couldn't resist:
Maradona 5' 5"
Messi 5' 7"
Pele 5' 8"
Puskas 5' 8"
Charlton 5' 8"
Garrincha 5' 7"
Donovan 5' 8"
Perez 5' 8"
Ramos 5' 7"
Mia 5' 5" (and Heinrichs isn't much taller)
I am certain these people (and their coaches) didn't overlook talent because of their height.
I suspect this "height" prejudice is related to the 1st quarter age trend. There is no logic to either. Neither height nor age have anything to do with talent.
Plain truth is that all other things being equal, having shorter legs is an advantage. Shorter legs are quicker. Shorter legs also means lower center of balance. You would think all coaches would know these things.
Bob, how tall was "speedy Gonzalez" :)
Re: R2 Dad's point, I guess the Nas will have to dump Pulisic then since he's only 5'8". This height thing gets a little silly. If the player has talent on the ball and a soccer brain, his height is irrelevant.
Nice article thank you. Height and athletic ability always overrated in USA. Ball is mostly at the feet. Size of soccer brain, displayed by instincts on and off the ball and technical ability with ball under pressure much harder to measure. This is not a 'stud' sport. I repeat myself here, but I have shaken the hand of every Uruguayan MNT player on several occasions and only Cavani is a 'stud' as we like to say here. The rest, look like ordinary people. It is what is between the ears and in the nervous system that distinguishes world class soccer players. Tab knows this, love that he is giving the young man a chance.
Humble 1, I think you have caused more confusion than ended with your "stud" comment. From your context, I think by "stud" you are referring to upper body bulk, i.e., appearance.
Most professional soccer players are mesomorphs in body type. Other than upper body bulk, I cannot think of a reason to distinguish some mesomorphs as studs. Generally speaking professional soccer doesn't favor those with greater upper body strength (or bulk) except for keepers. Also unnecessary bulk (weight) is not a negative for keepers like it is for field players.
I marvel at the misconception many people have that soccer specific skills are not athletic skills and that soccer players because they don't look like George Atlas are not strong and powerful.
The core is the key to power, not the arms.
I don't disagree with what most are saying here....height should not exclude players, but for someone to say this is not a "stud" sport is ignoring the facts of the last two teams(Germany and France) to win the World Cup. Both France and Germany had "stud athletes" all over the place. They just happened to have great technical skills also. Great athletes turn the tide in every sport but you have to be skillful also and have a mind for the game. When you can combine athletes with skill, you almost produce the perfect soccer player who can play in any position and in any system regardless of the team or league(I.e Christians Ronaldo)
Agree with everything here except playing 'any position' as I believe the mindset and skillset of a truly high level centerback, striker, central mid, etc are so important, i.e. Messi isn't going to be a first division centerback. But overall I'm on board with what you're saying. When coahcing youth players I am hyper-focused ontheir technical development, followed by tactical understanding, but sometimes have to remind players that soccer is also an athletic competition where speed and strength are important. You don't have to be 'big' to be strong (Messi is pretty damn strong on the ball), you don't have to be a sprinter but you must possess and USE quickness. High soccer IQ allows you to do far more with less from an athletic perspective, but it is also very important to have a high level of athleticism the higher the competition level. There is also a science to the game that comes down to how long it take to move distances, exploit spaces, win physial challenges and 50/50s etc.
One of my favorite soccer quotes of all time come from Cruyff: " What is speed? The sports press often confuses speed with insight. See, if I start running slightly earlier than someone else, I seem faster." I share that with kids all the time, but if two players recognize at the same time and begin running at the same time (from the same distance), the player with more actual speed will usually get to the right spot first.